The Commonwealth rolls out cash, childcare drives to aid women, girls

Domestic violence

In Kenya, over 40 per cent of women are likely to face SGBV during their lifetime.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The initiatives are being rolled out to 54 member countries to cushion vulnerable women and girls from the harsh effects of the pandemic.
  • The pandemic has resulted in increased levels of violence and the disproportionate burden of the economic downturn borne by women and girls.

Commonwealth countries have come up with initiatives to support gender equality and women and girls in the wake of Covid-19 crisis.

The initiatives are being rolled out to 54 member countries to cushion vulnerable women and girls from the harsh effects of the pandemic.

The pandemic has resulted in increased levels of violence and the disproportionate burden of the economic downturn borne by women and girls.

The initiatives include cash transfers, childcare subsidies, resource provision, job support schemes and training for strengthened economic empowerment.

To address increased gender-based violence (GBV), countries are refocusing their national strategies and committing resources.

These details were revealed during a virtual meeting of Commonwealth Women's Affairs Ministers Action Group (CWAMAG). The action group was formed in May 2021 to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on gender inequality.

Challenges

The meeting was chaired by Kenya’s Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia and Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland.

The two leaders spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of women and girls. They highlighted two themes of particular concern, including increased levels of violence and the disproportionate burden of the economic downturn borne by women and girls.

Ministers and heads of delegation echoed these themes in their interventions, highlighting a wide range of initiatives rolled out to support gender equality during the last two years.

A study by the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) released in January revealed that women in five counties experienced an increase in intimate partners since the onset of Covid-19.

Women in Nairobi, Isiolo, Mombasa, Kilifi and Narok counties, where the study was conducted, said the frequency and severity of violence from their partners have increased since the first case of Covid was announced in the country in March 2020.

They gave physical violence, which includes beating, hitting, and slapping, as the most form of violence they have experienced during this time is from their partners.

Emotional violence

The study was conducted between June 2021 and July 2021 and launched in December last year. It also showed women gave other common forms as emotional violence, including abuse, humiliation threats and sexual violence, which entails forced or unwanted sexual intercourse.

In the report titled Women’s Experiences on Intimate Partner Violence during the ongoing Covid-19, economic violence also featured prominently, with the women indicating that their men have been refusing to give money for basic family needs and misusing the limited family resources available.

The Gender Snapshot 2021 by UN and UN Women also showed the global gender gap in food security has risen dramatically since the onset of Covid-19, with more women and girls going hungry than men.

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

Key nutrition services, including school-based nutrition programmes the report showed were also affected by 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.

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