COVID-19’s Impact on Gender Equality & the SDGs
Revision for “COVID-19’s Impact on Gender Equality & the SDGs” created on July 9, 2020 @ 14:16:34
COVID-19’s Impact on Gender Equality & the SDGs
<h3>Table of Contents:</h3>
<li>Implications for the SDGs with a focus on women and girls</li>
<li>Implications for SDG 5 specifically</li>
<li>Additional Resources from OECD on COVID-19</li>
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a severe threat to the achievement of gender-related SDGs and jeopardises some of the improvements observed since 2015 related to gender equality and women’s empowerment. By looking at the state of the SDGs and their interlinkages pre-crisis, it is clearthat the economic and social consequences of the pandemic will exacerbate existing inequalities and discrimination against women and girls, especially against the most marginalised. As was revealed in West Africa during the Ebola crisis (2014-2015) and in Latin America with the Zika outbreak (2015-2016), public health crises can place a hold on gender-transformative policies and reforms, diverting resources away from the past and current needs of women, while the crises themselves actually increase and expand them. With this, it is important to recognize the impact COVID-19 is having, and will continue to have, on the achievement of the SDGs if progressive actions are not taken.
<h3>Implications for the SDGs with a focus on women and girls</h3>
Given the widespread and multiple implications of the COVID-19 crisis, all SDGs, and particularly those gender-related targets and indicators, are likely to be affected. Recognizing this impact and its gendered nature is a critical first step to designing socio-economic recoveries that will help, not hinder, the achievement of the SDGs and gender equality. Though not an exhaustive list, by looking with a gendered lens, it is clear that at least the following SDGs will be stalled by the current crisis:
<li><strong>SDG 8 – “Decent Work</strong>”: “Women constitute an estimated two-thirds of the health workforce worldwide, and…make up around 85% of nurses and midwives in the 104 countries for which data are available” (OECD, 2020). This sectoral concentration, as well as women’s over-representation in retail and hospitality, means that women are disproportionately exposed to COVID-19 at work.</li>
<li><strong>SDG 3 – “Good Health and Well-Being”</strong>: Resources for reproductive and sexual health are diverted to the emergency response – as we saw during the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014-2015, this contributed to an increase in maternal mortality in regions with weak healthcare capacities (Wenham, Smith and Morgan, 2020). For example, in Sierra Leone, post-crisis impact studies uncovered that during the crisis, there was a drop in the use of health services which translated to 3,600 additional maternal, neonatal and stillbirth deaths, under the most conservative estimates, in the year 2014-15 (Sochas, Channon and Nam, 2017).</li>
<li><strong>SDG 4 – “Quality Education”</strong>: The Ebola crisis also revealed a significant increase in adolescent pregnancies following the closure of schools during the outbreak, which in turn translated to higher rates of school dropouts especially for adolescent mothers during the post-crisis period (Bandiera et al., 2019). At the same time, the increased workload of unpaid and domestic care work falling on women’s and girls’ shoulders – in particular caring for the sick—will affect girls’ educational prospects.</li>
<li><strong>SDG 2 – “Zero Hunger”</strong>: In countries where social norms imply a preference for boys over girls, the pandemic might magnify these preferences across a wide array of domains. For instance, restricted food resources might lead households where discriminatory social norms are widespread to favour boys over girls, directly affecting SDG 2. Similarly, in a context of limited resources, preference might be given to boys over girls in terms of education and health (SDGs 3 and 4).</li>
<li><strong>SDG 1 – “No Poverty” and SDG 10 – “Reduced Inequality”</strong>: As the economic consequences of the outbreak – e.g. layoffs, income loss, job insecurity—might disproportionately affect women, an increase in women’s poverty levels around the globe is highly likely.</li>
<h3><em>Implications for SDG 5 specifically </em></h3>
The pandemic will yield severe consequences on the achievement of SDG 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically. Before the crisis, it was estimated that 2.1 billion girls and women were living in countries that will not achieve gender equality targets by 2030 (Equal Measures 2030, 2020). As the pace of progress slows down, both developed and developing countries require more time and aggressive action to reach gender equality targets. The following SDG 5 targets will be severely affected:
<li><strong>SDG 5.1 on eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and girls</strong>: According to the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), new legislation to enhance gender equality and abolish discriminatory laws have benefited from increasing political commitments before the crisis (OECD, 2019). However, the health crisis has crippled the legislative system hindering many government’s abilities to pass and implement new legislation.</li>
<li><strong>SDG 5.2 on eliminating all violence against women and girls</strong>: While recent data show that 18% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence in the previous 12 months, new evidence shows that domestic violence has increased, especially under lockdowns. For example, the UK’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline say a 25% increase in the number of phone calls in the first week of lockdown and a 150% increase in visits to its website (UN Women, 2020).</li>
<li><strong>SDG 5.3 on eliminating all harmful practices</strong>: Before the crisis, evidence showed a decline in the practice of child marriage in both South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (OECD Development Centre, 2019). As poverty increases in the wake of the pandemic child, early and forced marriage, which often stem from economic considerations under extreme poverty, might also increase in developing countries. Meanwhile, in low-income countries, the health crisis will severely cripple the financial capacities and resources of governments, yielding profound effects on the legislative and enforcement capabilities of these countries. Prosecution of perpetrators of female genital mutilation, for instance, might become even more uneven, and there have been reports that the practice has become more common since the pandemic began.</li>
<li><strong>SDG 5.4 on recognising unpaid care and domestic work:</strong> Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, women were already performing 75% of household and care work globally (OECD Development Centre, 2019). The present crisis has highlighted the importance of carers who take care of the older members of society as well as those with existing health issues. Moreover, in many places schools have closed, meaning that children are staying home. These dynamics and all that comes with them, increase the time-burden of unpaid care work. It will likely be very challenging to return to the pre-crisis distribution and nearly impossible to achieve an equitable distribution of unpaid care and domestic work between men and women by 2030.</li>
<li><strong>SDG 5.6 on ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights:</strong> Provision of sexual and reproductive health commodities, including menstrual health items may be impacted as supply chains undergo strain from the pandemic response (UNFPA, 2020). Evidence from the Zika crisis in Latin America showed that gang violence in El Salvador and Brazil directly affected women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, with informal networks controlling who had access to supplies and who did not.</li>
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, there is growing recognition of the impact it will have on the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda. While the past months have shown that adaptation is indeed possible, there is a need to look forward at the impact responses to COVID-19 will have on human development worldwide. In looking forward, it is possible to understand that action taken now will fundamentally shape the future. With this recognition comes the possibility to craft policies that are sensitive to gender inequalities and will allow for equitable recoveries.
<h4><em>Additional Resources from OECD on COVID-19 </em></h4>
<li><a href="https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=127_127000-awfnqj80me&title=Women-at-the-core-of-the-fight-against-COVID-19-crisis">Women at the core of the fight against COVID-19 crisis</a> (OECD Publication)</li>
<li><a href="https://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/en/">Tackling coronavirus (COVID‑19) Contributing to a global effort</a> (OECD’s COVID-19 platform)</li>
Bandiera, O. et al. (2019). “The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola: Lessons from an Empowerment Program”<em>. Impact Evaluation series</em>, No. WPS 8760. World Bank Group, Washington D.C. <a href="http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/452451551361923106/The-Economic-Lives-of-Young-Women-in-the-Time-of-Ebola-Lessons-from-an-Empowerment-Program"><u>http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/452451551361923106/The-Economic-Lives-of-Young-Women-in-the-Time-of-Ebola-Lessons-from-an-Empowerment-Program</u></a>.
Equal Measures 2030 (2020). <em>Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality by 2030</em>. <a href="https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EM2030BendingTheCurveReportMarch2020.pdf"><u>https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EM2030BendingTheCurveReportMarch2020.pdf</u></a>.
OECD (2020). <em>Women at the Core of the Fight Against COVID-19 Crisis. </em>OECD Publishing, Paris. <a href="https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=127_127000-awfnqj80me&title=Women-at-the-core-of-the-fight-against-COVID-19-crisis">https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=127_127000-awfnqj80me&title=Women-at-the-core-of-the-fight-against-COVID-19-crisis</a>.
OECD (2019). <em>SIGI 2019 Global Report: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities</em>, Social Institutions and Gender Index. OECD Publishing, Paris. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/bc56d212-en">https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/bc56d212-en</a>.
OECD Development Centre (2019). <em>Gender, Institutions and Development Database (GID-DB) 2019</em>. <a href="https://oe.cd/ds/GIDDB2019"><u>https://oe.cd/ds/GIDDB2019</u></a>.
Sochas, L., A. Channon and S. Nam (2017). “Counting indirect crisis-related deaths in the context of a low-resilience health system: the case of maternal and neonatal health during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone”. Vol. 32, pp. 32-39. <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czx108">http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czx108</a>.
UNFPA (2020). <em>COVID-19: A Gender Lens – Protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights, and promoting gender equality</em>. UNFPA. <a href="https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/COVID-19_A_Gender_Lens_Guidance_Note.pdf"><u>https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/COVID-19_A_Gender_Lens_Guidance_Note.pdf</u></a>.
Wenham, C., J. Smith and R. Morgan (2020). <em>COVID-19: the gendered impacts of the outbreak</em>, Lancet Publishing Group. <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30526-2">http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30526-2</a>.
United Nations (n.d.). <em>Sustainable Development Goal 5</em>. Retrieved from <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5">https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5</a>.
United Nations (n.d.). <em>Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development</em>. Retrieved from <a href="https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda">https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda</a>.
UN Women (2020). <em>COVID-19 and Violence Against Women and Girls: Addressing the Shadow Pandemic</em>. <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/policy-brief-covid-19-and-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5842">https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/policy-brief-covid-19-and-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5842</a>