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OBSERVATION REPORT ON THE IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON WOMEN.

Implications of COVID-19 on Women , Peace and Secuirty.  

April, 2020

Abstract: This paper is stressing the importance of linking the responses of COVID-19 to Women, Peace and Security agenda. Women are at the frontline of facing the threat of COVID-19 pandemic. They are in a protective position of taking care of children and elderly in the community in comparison to their male counterparts.

This is due to the different care giving roles that women and girls play as well as pre-existing gender inequalities that exist in society of South Sudan. The COVID-19 pandemic stands to worsen women and girls’ already in dire situation in South Sudan where women are already playing a disproportionate role in responding to different diseases by being frontline healthcare workers, caretakers at home and community volunteers and mobilisers.

Investing strategically on combating COVID-19 pandemic with full commitment on building linkages with pillars of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 is essential. Prioritization of prevention and protection of women including genuine women representation and participation in the efforts of combating COVID-19 should be taken serious by the South Sudan authorities at all levels.

The declared preventive measures by the national high-level taskforce on prevention of COVID-19 need to be gendered. All the stages of COVID-19 during and post requires take into account gender dimensions so that women prevention, protection, participation and recovery are effective considered by the various forms of responses to the threat of COVID-19. In the context of South Sudan which is post-conflict and a state with effective communal and inter-communal violence, it will be a grave mistake to deal with COVID-19 without gender lens.

  1. METHODOLOGY

This data was generated through participatory approach of conducting key informants interviews through phone calls and email communications with random selected 350 women, 35 girls and 25 men on matters of women, peace and security.

The Secondary methods of reviewing the 32 public communications released by the national high level taskforce for COVID-19 prevention,  over 9 media articles on issue of women safety and protection during combating COVID-19 were reviewed.    

  1. KEY CONCERNS
  1. The national high-level taskforces should have gender advisor for fostering actions for gendering the decisions and actions of the taskforces.
  2. Building gender strategy for informing any intervention on combating COVID-19 pandemic is necessary
  3. Serious attention should be protection of women rights and prevention of any form of violence against women/gender based violence 
  4. Prioritizing women prevention and protection in any response intervention is required
  5. Women genuine representation and participation in all structures that make decisions and commissioned action for tackling the COVID-19 is key
  6. Any COVID-19 generated data should be aggregated in terms of male, female, children, elderly, people living with HID/AIDS and persons with disabilities
  7. Any planning for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic should full take into account gender dimensions
  8. Any graphic/pictorial or narrative messaging about COVID-19 should be gender sensitive.

 

  1. SUMMARY OF MADE CALLS

Call 1: Women prevention from the threat of COVID-19 pandemic should be taken seriously by the state and community structures

Call 2: Specific focus should be considered on protection of women from all form of threats associated with COVID-19 through designing a gendered analysis and response strategy 

Call 3: The preventive measures for combating COVID-19 should be gender sensitive and strategies for dissemination of information on preventive measures need to be contextualized in order to penetrate deep into the micro-level 

Call 4: Any humanitarians approach should be gender sensitive on addressing every challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to carefully analyze the impact of COVID-19 through a gendered lens and continue to adapt a response to respond to these shifting implications in a gendered manner

Call 5: Any data should be disaggregate in gender format for building accurate data for making assessments, analysis and decisions on responding to  the threat of COVID-19

Call 6: Hard measures should adapted by the state and community structures for preventing occurrence of gender based violence or violence against women during the combat of COVID-19 pandemic 

Call 7: There is need to develop a sub-strategy for increasing public awareness on psycho-social dimension of this crisis of COVID-19       

Call 8: There is need to engage in developing a strategy on women and recovery from COVID-19 pandemic impact

Call 9: Promotion of women socio-economic recovery is necessary during and post COVID-19 pandemic.  

Call 10:  There is need to engage women in all structures designed to combat COVID-19 pandemic at all levels of assessment, analysis & decision making, which is especially driven from the ground upwards.

  1. NARRATIVE AND FINDINGS OF THE SMALL SCALE STUDY
    1. PREVENTION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS

Women are at frontline of confronting the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially vulnerable women are living in the rural and pro-poor communities including women who are head of household.

Based on this thinking, number of women urgently volunteered to sensitize women who are mainly vegetable sellers in the markets in Juba city.   The massive populations of women who are vegetables sellers in the markets across the country were viewed as part of the women constituency at risk of contracting COVID-19.

The other sections of the women are women who are public place such as hospitals and ministries cleaners. Furthermore, as women and girls are the care-takers at the household level, women & girls are generally at higher-risk because even if they are house bound, they are exposed to anyone who is moving about such as husbands, brothers, sisters grandparents, visitors etc including women and girls take the lead in caring for anyone who falls ill whether at home and public health facility.   Their prevention from COVID-19 pandemic should be urgently and seriously taken into account.

Call 1: Women prevention from the threat of COVID-19 pandemic should be taken seriously by the state and community structures.

  1. PROTECTION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS

Women and Girls living at pro-poor and engaged on small scale income businesses such as selling of vegetables normally have limited access to formal public information on matters of their lives protection. Women constituted the highest population of the society at frontlines of facing the threat of COVID-19 pandemic. Concrete attention is required on the different risks related to girls and boys ranging from exploitation, abuse, risk of exposure, and exclusion from school once they re-open, etc. alarms to the society to be careful of engaging on matters of early and forced marriages  including unwanted pregnancy is essential. Concerns of women living with HIV/AIDS and women with disabilities should not be ignore. Therefore designing specific approach of reaching women on matters of protection on the threat of COVID-19 pandemic is paramount. 

Call 2: Specific focus should be considered on protection of women and girls from all form of threats associated with COVID-19 through designing a gendered analysis and response strategy 

  1. PREVENTIVE MEASURES:

The state declared COVID-19 preventive measures are very important to be observed by the women. But the women in the informal sector of the society   who have the high rate of illiteracy required to be reach to be inform about these preventive measures urgently since most of the their activities for earning income for their livelihood are centered on their regular contacts with the massive population of the society.

Call 3: The preventive measures for combating COVID-19 should be gender sensitive and strategies for dissemination of information on preventive measures need to be contextualized in order to penetrate deep into the micro-level. 

  1. HUMANITARIAN RESPONSES:

The  increasing ‘lock-down’ related to physical distancing is implemented, response to the consequent escalating needs in relation to food insecurity, etc need also to be taken into consideration. The approach of the humanitarian response to the humanitarian challenges created by the COVID-19 is absolute necessary to take serious steps focusing on women. Women are vulnerable and protective positions that sometimes it disempowered them in striking efforts to access humanitarian response adequately and because of women being in protective and vulnerable position, approach of humanitarians approaches if not gender sensitive then this is further stress for women to access humanitarian response and women who are head of households in the society which is male-influence-led society in relation to social services delivery to the population.

Call 4: Any humanitarians approach should be gender sensitive on addressing every challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential to carefully analyze the impact of COVID-19 through a gendered lens and continue to adapt their response to respond to these shifting implications in a gendered manner.

Call 5: Any data should be disaggregate in gender format for building accurate data for making assessments, analysis and decisions on responding to  the threat of COVID-19.

  1. GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE:

The vulnerability position of women should not be allowed to offer some individual’s chance of abusing women in any form of the gender based violence and violence against women. Normally some men and women like to take advantage of the woman being in vulnerable position for some ill-gains such as raping, sexual exploitation, beating of women, mental and physical torture and offering and protective jobs. As we are anticipating escalation in the levels of distress and the negative stressful impact on human society by the COVID-19 threat should not be an opportunity for aiding more gender based sexual or violence against women. The possibility of the COVID-19 scaling up gender based violence is higher if the approaches for responding to the threat of the COVID-19 are not gender sensitive. Prevention of any case of violence against women and gender based gender by any law enforcement agent should strictly be executed with full respect of human rights and rule of law principles. It is necessary to avoid use of hard measures intensifying   increase in abuse of human rights and rule of law.  

Call 6: Hard measures should adapted by the state and community structures for preventing occurrence of all forms of gender based violence and violence against women during the combat of COVID-19 pandemic.   

Call 7: There is need to develop a sub-strategy for increasing public awareness on psycho-social dimension of this crisis of COVID-19.       

  1. WOMEN, GIRLS AND RECOVERY

Investing on the tailoring specific programs for lifting women from the socio-economic challenges created by the threat of the COVID-19 should be prioritized by every actor that is focusing on helping women and girls to recovery from the negative impact of COVID-19. Focusing on a strategy for handling cases of girl-child that may flow as victim of early/force marriages or any other type of abuse due to the COVID-19 implication should be consider by every actors engaging on women and girls recovery programing from COVID-19 impact. Women and girls being positioned at the center of the COVID-19 recovery strategies is the best approach for working on effective lifting of the women from the burdens created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, in terms of programming, engaging on actions that fosters empathy, compassion, solidarity, unity and social cohesion as house-hold-level peace-building is required. Promoting an atmosphere in which people keep ’concern for others’ at the forefront of their actions is beneficial since it is about compassionate social responsibility. This can contribute in reducing economic pressure.

Call 8: There is need to engage in developing a strategy on women and recovery from COVID-19 pandemic impact.

  1. ECONOMIC RESCUES PRIORITIZATION:

It is essential to design economic package for aiding economic recovery of the women living at pro-poor society. The pro-poor society women are badly affected by the efforts for preventing COVID-19 pandemic from spreading. Majority of these are individuals with daily paid jobs such as cleaning, house work and selling of vegetables, public tea sellers, second hand clothes and shoes and working in hair salons.  It is only the vegetables selling sector considered to be essential sector that is allowed to operate during the struggling for preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. As a part of women and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic social-economic challenges, it is essential to design actions that focusing on empowering women economically. Strategically any policy approach on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic challenges should be gender sensitive and with sharp gender lens.

Call 9: Promotion of women socio-economic recovery (access to income and resources for strengthening purchasing power) is necessary during and post COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN

Meaningful women participation and representation in the structures of analysis and decision making for combating the threat of COVID-19 is a cornerstone for successful gender-sensitive decisions for combating COVID-19 threats. The absence of women in any structure of decisions making on combating COVID-19 threat is subject to gender biasness in their approach for embracing gender response to the combat the threat of COVID-19.

The threat of COVID-19 affects women and girls differentially from men and boys. So due to this, if women left out of the structures for decisions making on combating COVID-19 chance of the all actions for combating COVID-19 being pro-male interest much is possible. It is paramount and beneficial to the society to have women involved in the structures of analysis & decision making for proper setting of women narrative for shaping decisions and actions associated with the efforts for combating COVID-19. Among the vulnerable category of women that are always left out when are accepted to get chance for participation are the women with disabilities, women living with HIV/AIDS and elderly Women.

They should be engage directly among the women to play effective role in leadership of mechanisms for tackling COVID-19. The women engagement should base on tactic of analysis and decision-making must be driven from the ground (i.e. the lived experiences of people) upward and must be contextualized. It must also be dynamic, staying ahead of the evolution of the crisis and adapting according to the shifting realities and needs.

Call 10: There is need to engage women in all structures designed to combat COVID-19 pandemic at all levels of assessment, analysis & decision making, which is especially driven from the ground upwards.

  1. RECOMMENDATIONS             
  1. There is need for the national high level taskforce on COVID-19 should ensure that all the analysis, actions and decisions are gender sensitive.
  2. The national high level taskforce should authorities’ local government structures such as city and municipality councils to provide free masks to the women and men selling vegetables.
  3. Meaningful participation and representation of the women in the sub-national/states and local government structures for combating COVID-19 is essential.
  4. There is need to aggregate any data associated with COVID-19 in gender format
  5. Reporting and documentation of any case of gender based violence or violence against women associated with the efforts for combating COVID-19.  
  6. There is a need to continue services to GBV/VAW survivors.
  7. The National Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Social Development in partnership with UNWOMEN and other Stakeholders should establish COVID-19 Gender Working Group.  
  1. CEPO’S ROLE

CEPO through the 1325 Net will be championing regular advocacy and lobby on the meaningful women participation and representation in all level of analysis and decisions making on combating COVID-19. Documentation of specific incidences associated with women as a result of combating COVID-19 pandemic will be taken seriously by CEPO. Pressuring the state and community structures to take responses to women prevention and protection from COVID-19 threat as frontlines will be carryout by CEPO across the country. CEPO is committed for regular oversight observation reporting on the nexus between COVID-19 and UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Concretely CEPO will be engaging on the following;

  1. Documentation of women and girls rights violations
  2. Conduct lives experiences based surveys with focus on gender mainstreaming in actions and decisions.
  3. Championing development of strategy for women and girls recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
  4. Advocate for the establishment of COVID-19 Gender Working Group
  5. Public awareness on the psycho-social dimension of this crisis of COVID-19
  6. Advocating for meaningful women participation and representation in all efforts for combating COVID-19.
  1. CONCLUSION

Building nexus between UNSCR 1325 with the efforts for combating COVID-19 is essential. The reality is COVID-19 pandemic will create serious impact with new realities in human society. Among those new realities are challenges that women, girls and boys will face during post-COVID-19 period.

Any action towards developing strategies for addressing the new realities during post-COVID-19 era is remarkable. The national high level taskforce on COVID-19 should ensure that meaningful women participation and representation is embraced by them and their counterparts at the state and local government level.

Investing in consistent engagement on the issues associated on the nexus between COVID-19 and UNSCR 1325 and UNSCR 2250 is necessary in the context of South Sudan which is post-conflict situation. Communities should be encouraged to report any incident of gender based violence against women that is associated with the efforts for combating COVID-19 across South Sudan.