Report: Covid-19 has worsened global gender gap

Women selling foodstuff in Kibera slums, Nairobi. A study by UN says the number of women living on less than Sh200 a day is likely to reach 435 million this year, up from 398.5 million in 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • According to the Gender Snapshot 2021 by UN and UN Women, the global gender gap in moderate or severe food insecurity increased from six per cent in 2019 to 10 per cent in 2020.
  • Report says extreme poverty is also on the rise with the number of women and girls living on less than Sh200 a day likely to reach 435 million this year, up from 398.5 million in 2019.

The global gender gap in food security has risen dramatically since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Gender Snapshot 2021 by UN and UN Women, the global gender gap in moderate or severe food insecurity increased from six per cent in 2019 to 10 per cent in 2020, with more women and girls going hungry.

The report shows women small-scale producers routinely earn far less than men, with data from 28 countries showing that small-scale producer households headed by women, earn on average 30 per cent less than those headed by men.

Vital roles

Key nutrition services, including school-based nutrition programs have faced severe disruptions with those providing iron and folic acid supplementation for adolescent girls declining by 45 per cent.

Data from 28 countries show that small-scale producer households headed by women earn on average 30 per cent less than those headed by men.

“Women can play vital roles in transforming food systems, as shown by improved nutrition outcomes when agricultural interventions focus on women’s access to and control over resources,” reads the report in part.

The report notes that Covid-19 has undermined food security globally, with an estimated 811 million people going hungry in 2020, an increase of 161 million over 2019.

The Gender Snapshot 2021 is a report that highlights the progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Maternity cash benefits

It says extreme poverty is also on the rise with the number of women and girls living on less than Sh200 ($1.90) a day likely to reach 435 million this year, up from 398.5 million in 2019.

Only 44.9 per cent of mothers with new-borns could obtain maternity cash benefits according to the progress report.

And despite women’s greater vulnerability to poverty, only 23 per cent of social protection policy and labour market measures to respond to Covid-19 are gender-sensitive.

The document estimates that by 2030, more than 150 million women and girls could emerge from poverty if governments implement a comprehensive strategy to improve access to education and family planning, achieve equal wages and extend social transfers.

Unintended pregnancies

The pandemic has also disrupted essential health services for women and girls with an estimated 12 million women in 115 lower and middle income countries experiencing disruptions in family planning services, leading to an estimated 1.4 million unintended pregnancies during the first year of the pandemic.

On education, the survey notes the pandemic has resulted to increased risk of violence, child marriage, child labour, trafficking and early childbirth.

More shocking is the findings that only 42 per cent of countries had measures to support girls’ return to school in early 2021.

Women continue to lag behind in representation, with data collected in 95 countries in 2020 showing that more than half lack quotas for women in national parliament and almost half continue to restrict women from working in certain jobs or industries.

Political voice

The report further indicates that Covid-19 has clawed back limited progress in the past 25 years on expanding women’s rights and opportunities, including for economic participation and political voice.

Young women have witnessed more pronounced employment losses than their male counterparts and risk long-term exclusion from labour markets.

The number of young women not in education, employment or training has increased in 28 out of 48 countries, according to available data, between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020.

Irrespective of the women’s central role in responding to Covid-19, including as front-line health workers, the report discloses they do not have the leadership positions they deserve.

Major disruptions

Women and girls remain disproportionately affected by the socioeconomic fallout, struggling with job losses and livelihoods, derailed education and increased burdens of unpaid care work.

Their health services and other services such as shelter and one-stop crisis centres, are already poorly funded and continue to face major disruptions that cut lifelines for survivors of violence and undermine sexual and reproductive health.

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