Addressing women’s needs in Covid-19 response is imperative

As National Women’s Month comes to an end, let us reflect on our commitment to ensure that women’s rights are respected at all times, especially now that the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic. This public health crisis has exposed staggering inequalities in society. Among these is gender equality, which places women and girls at a disadvantage.  

Unfortunately, crises disproportionately affect women and girls.

  • In the Philippines, two in five wage and salary workers are women. 88% of entrepreneurs who are engaged in the retail and wholesale industry are women. This means that women have huge contribution to the Philippine economy. In the aftermath of the pandemic that has brought prolonged economic inactivity, it will therefore be a challenge for many Filipino women to recover their livelihood and sources of income.
  • The number of female-headed households and solo parents in the Philippines has been increasing over the years. In the context of a pandemic where community quarantine is imposed, women, who usually perform care work, are more likely to experience increased hardship as their responsibilities become heavier.
  • Emergency situations cause psychological distress. According to studies, depression brought about by crises tend to affect women more than men. 
  • At a time when access to healthcare is limited, essential health services including reproductive health and birth control may be neglected. The Commission on Population and Development has reminded stakeholders of the importance of these essential services in maintaining overall health and well-being during the crisis.
  • According to studies, majority of women all over the world experience gender-based violence during crises like armed conflicts and disasters. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women’s safety remains to be seen.

These are some measures that can be done to address these difficult but not insurmountable challenges:

  • ensuring women’s access to social protection and financial and other forms of assistance for the poor and near-poor, informal workers, wage earners, and those employed by MSMEs; 
  • recognition of care work provided by women and the promotion of the importance of shared domestic responsibilities among women and men;
  • round-the-clock availability of mental health services, including counseling and care;
  • access to essential healthcare services, including birth control; and
  • integration of women’s rights and GBV prevention-related initiatives in all response-related interventions and efforts.

Inequality has never been more pronounced as now. But what we do today becomes instrumental in shaping future actions toward the achievement of gender equality.