COVID-19 Bangladesh Rapid Gender Analysis
Whilst lifesaving , the COVID-19 lockdown is disproportionately impacting women as existing gender inequalities are exacerbating gender-based disparities between women, men, girls and boys in terms of access to information, resources to cope with the pandemic, and its socio-economic impact. It is therefore essential to undertake a gendered impact analysis of COVID-19.
The Gender in Humanitarian Action (GiHA) Working Group in Bangladesh has undertaken this Rapid Gender Analysis to inform national preparedness and response. Given the social distancing measures, RGA desk review contrasts pre-COVID-19 gender information and demographic data against new gender information from a multitude of surveys and qualitative sources. It examines the immediate impact of COVID-19 on pre-existing structural social and economic vulnerabilities of women, girls and diverse gender groups, and the challenges faced by these groups in accessing information and health, education, and WASH, protection and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) services as well as support for livelihoods. The gendered impact of COVID-19 is evident in following six broad areas:
- Increased risks and evidence of GBV in the context of the pandemic and its responses;
- Unemployment, economic and livelihood impacts for the poor women and girls;
- Unequal access to health, education and WASH services;
- Unequal distribution of care and domestic work;
- Women and girls’ voices are not being included to inform a gender-targeted response; this is particularly the case for those most left behind;
- Policy response mechanisms do not incorporate gender analytical data or gender-responsive plans.
COVID-19 has a significant implication on livelihoods of women and transgender people in Bangladesh as 91.8% of the total employment of women is in the informal sector. Domestic workers, owners and workers in MSMEs, daily labourers, street vendors, cleaners, sex workers including transgender persons, and other informal workers have rapidly lost their means to earn an income; thousands of migrant workers including women returnee migrant workers have lost their jobs with no hope for reinstatement in the near future. Even in the formal sector, massive job losses of female workers in the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector are being reported, although some garment factories have started opening up; in such cases the workers including the female workers safety measures remains to be a concern.
Bangladesh’s health system is dominated by women, where more than 94% of nurses are female, and more than 90% of community health workers are female. They are vulnerable to infections and risk their lives. It is assumed that this crisis and its ripple effect in society and communities will continue; this means that a large number of female health workers will need support to balance the increase in workload and family obligations, e.g. child support, safety nets, mental health support.
Women are bearing the brunt of increases in unpaid care work. In Bangladesh, pre-COVID-19, women on average performed 3.43 times more unpaid domestic care work than men (BBS Gender Statistics 2018). The closure of schools and the entire family staying at home has further exacerbated the burden of unpaid care work on women, who now must absorb the additional work of constant family care duties. Where healthcare systems are overstretched by efforts to contain the pandemic; UN Women’s survey result shows that in households with elderly adults, women are spending more time on unpaid adult care work activities like providing emotional care and administrative support for adults in addition to cooking, cleaning and making repairs since the spread of COVID-19. Men, on the other hand been providing increased level of physical care giving for elderly or sick adults.
Low representation of women in leadership roles at the local level results in gender insensitive approaches to the COVID-19 response; except for the number of affected cases and mortality rates there is no further sex disaggregated data, e.g. the number of men and women in isolation, institutional and home quarantine are not provided, and information about transgender people is absent.
Thus, RGA findings call for an inclusive and gender responsive COVID-19 response as follows:
- Targeted needs-based interventions for women and girls from marginalized groups, indigenous minorities, and gender diverse communities: ensuring access to health care for the most vulnerable and ensuring protection of female health workers; providing livelihood support; protection from GBV and ensuring adequate WASH services.
- Engage women leaders, diverse women’s networks and organizations in decision making processes for COVID-19 response.
- Disseminate widely COVID-19 related prevention and response messages to protect women, adolescent boys and girls and other vulnerable groups. The messages should dispel and undo harmful gender stereotypes and superstitions that negatively impact women and girls.
- Collect, produce and analyze sex, age and disability disaggregated data on the COVID-19 related socioeconomic impact on women, girls and gender diverse people
- Consult with women and adolescents from affected communities and other vulnerable groups for planning and implementation of the COVID-19 response.
- Regularly update the RGA and actively apply the findings to accurately respond to the differentiated impact of COVID-19 on these groups.