VOICE Statement on COVID-19 Crisis

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VOICE calls for an inclusive coronavirus response to protect women and girls in this crisis 

6 April 2020

We must not fail women and girls in this global emergency.

Women and girls living in fragile contexts will be deeply affected by the coronavirus crisis. As governments and organizations respond to the pandemic, we are calling for an inclusive response that recognizes and addresses the specific needs of this half of the population, who are at heightened risk in crises. Response systems have historically failed to consider how women and girls are the most affected by Ebola, cholera and zika, and COVID-19 is no different. We must not let this happen again.

COVID-19 poses a grave threat to millions of women and girls who have been forced by persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations into fragile situations. Women are often the first to lose their income from precarious and informal work; it is harder for them to get the nutritious diet they need to remain healthy; and it is harder for them to access preventative resources to protect them from the virus. Access to reliable information is harder for women as they often stay closer to the home, have less access to mobile phones and have lower literacy rates. When these factors are combined with their expected role as caregivers, this puts women and girls at greater risk of the virus, while placing the burden of recovery on their shoulders.

During this crisis, we must ensure that the essential services needed by women and girls as a matter of survival are not neglected and de-funded. We know that during humanitarian emergencies, money is often diverted from areas of spending that protect women and girls. For example, the services needed to support survivors of domestic violence are under-resourced everywhere in the world, and navigating these services is challenging even at times of world stability – let alone during humanitarian emergencies.

Worldwide lockdowns are bringing a rise in domestic violence, and homes cannot be assumed as safe zones for many women and girls. For some, social isolation simply means being cut off from work, school, friends and family members; for many others, it means being locked inside with people they fear without opportunities for escape. Sadly, we also know that perpetrators of abuse may use social isolation as an opportunity to exert power and control over their partners to keep them from accessing any social support or services.

VOICE is calling for an inclusive COVID-19 response that protects women and girls. Specifically we are calling on organizations to:

  • Ensure sex-disaggregated data are collected so that programs are not based on assumptions about how the crisis is impacting different groups.
  • Understand the unique risks women and girls face in all phases of this crisis – preparedness, containment and isolation or lockdown – as programing efforts will need to be adapted.
  • Recognize the factors that put women and girls at greater risk, and develop specific interventions that are designed and led by women themselves.
  • Ensure credible information makes it to the remotest of communities, making sure all women and girls get preventative information in an accessible format.
  • Make sure the range of services needed by women and girls is available and accessible, and that funding is ringfenced.