COVID-19, Charity and Women: addressing deepening inequality and threatened gender equality gains

The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women around the world. Aid that’s focused on women not only improves gender equality but also uplifts entire communities in the long-run.

If crisis serves as a clarifier, then the COVID-19 pandemic has made the reality of gender inequality ever more stark.

2020 may mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, but celebrating this important milestone is difficult - existing gender inequalities have deepened and important progress made in the past two decades stands under threat of being reversed.

Support for women is thus especially necessary and urgent. A number of different charities featured by Regional Relief have focused their efforts explicitly on women.

Source: UN Women Asia & the Pacific

Even before the pandemic, women and girls disproportionately took on care-giving roles that are often unpaid or underpaid. A 2018 report by the Asian Development Bank and UN Women revealed that women and girls in Asia and the Pacific spend as much as 11 times more of their day than men and boys on unpaid care and domestic work.

For many women across the world, the COVID pandemic has been a double-whammy. Not only are women more likely to lose their jobs because they are more likely to work in the service sector which relies on large numbers of people in close contact, lockdown measures including school closures have also increased childcare demands at home. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, this has led to mothers being 1.5 times more likely than fathers to lose or quit their jobs during this pandemic. This is worsened by the fact that economic stimulus packages and emergency measures announced across the world have mostly neglected to address unpaid care work, leaving many women under increased pressures with little recourse to help.

Support for women is thus especially necessary and urgent. A number of different charities featured by Regional Relief have focused their efforts explicitly on women.

Hagar supports women and children who have suffered from human trafficking, slavery or abuse in Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, and have sought to continue providing support for their clients in these pressing times.

HOME, a shelter for female foreign domestic workers in Singapore, also seeks to improve their support for their clients, especially because many domestic workers have had to cope with increased care-giving loads and restricted movement.

In Myanmar, the Women’s League of Burma seeks to advance the status of women toward a peaceful, just and federal democratic union of Burma. During this COVID-19 outbreak, the organisation is seeking to support women and internally displaced persons based in remote parts of the country by providing humanitarian relief and supporting the safe distribution of awareness raising materials through video clips, radio broadcasting, posters and other booklets.

Similarly, the Karenni National Women's Organization is also an organisation advocating for women’s rights, protection and women’s empowerment through education and awareness raising, advocacy and other innovative approaches. During the COVID-19 lockdown, reports of domestic violence received by KNWO have tripled while services that these victims usually turn to have been reduced. The group is therefore trying to keep their safehouse running, and are working to deliver food and personal protective equipment to seven townships in Karenni State for their COVID-19 Emergency Appeal.

(Note: Details for those interested to donate to the Women’s League of Burma or the Karenni National Women’s Organisation can be found on Regional Relief’s Charities Database)

Women’s role as primary caregivers has made them particularly vulnerable during the pandemic and women-centered aid is under-resourced. This is precisely why aid tailored for women is an extremely effective way of helping communities address unmet needs.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis for many women around the world. At the same time, it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to improve gender equality and build healthier communities.