The COVID pandemic has been devastating in it’s impact. And here’s what’s worse: we may not know the full extent of the damage it has done, especially among vulnerable and non-dominant groups who often go unaccounted for. But global trends are emerging and as we begin to pick ourselves up from the second wave, we need to assess the damage and begin work in helping those who need our help the most.
With that in mind, we at Breakthrough decided to conduct a rapid survey among our communities to find out what has been the impact of COVID on them. The survey was along several lines, including: ease of vaccinations, violence, mental health, effects of the lockdown etc. The survey recorded 318 participants, between the ages of 14 – 56 years of which 70% identified as female and 30% as male.
Here are some of our findings:
We wanted to know what our community thought when it came to vaccinations. When we asked about gender discriminations and vaccinations, we found some interesting facts. On one hand:
- A majority of the respondents (65%) reported that both men and women are getting the vaccination equally in their area.
Which is great! Right? But when we also asked that, considering the low supply of vaccines, who among the family should get it first, this is what the response was:
- 34% of respondents said that males above 45 years should get the vaccine first while 31% of respondents said that males aged 18-44 years’ should get it first. 21% of respondents said females above 45 years and 13% stated their preference for females aged 18-44 years’ to get the vaccine first.
Huh. It’s also worth noting that 32% respondents said men have been vaccinated because they have to go outside more.
Lockdown and Household work
“There is little chance to rest. Because children are also at home along with the rest of the household, the responsibility of the entire household is on the woman. The woman still has to do the household chores, because of the mindset that only women should do household chores.”
One of the things we do know is that with COVID and the lockdown, as more people now work from home, the burden of domestic responsibilities, child care while also managing their careers has squarely come down on women. This was confirmed by our survey where we found that almost 61% of the participants reported increased household responsibilities for women and girls along with significantly reduced or no time to rest.
A majority of people, (69% of male respondents and 76% of female respondents) completely agreed with the statement that during covid and lockdown, women/girls had to do more household work.
With that confirmation, an important question rises. What happens if a female family member falls sick? What additional responsibilities fall on male family members? We asked and the responses speak for themselves:
- The highest response was responsibility for household chores increasing (71.8%), the sick person to be cared for (67.6%), responsibilities of taking care of children (61.5%), taking help from neighbours/relatives (26.8%), and he has to try to manage the household expenses (2.3%)
As the highlighted points show, a clear sign that even during the pandemic, there is little to no sharing of household responsibilities. But it gets worse.
- When the woman in the household falls sick, only 38% of the respondents said that all the family members share the responsibility of household work. This was followed by fathers or other male family members (30%) who take over the household responsibilities.
- 16% of the participants however, stated that other female members should take over responsibilities. Some of the participants even had a hierarchy for taking over household chores, stating that if there are no daughters then the men would have to take over the responsibilities.
- In fact, in 9% of the cases, the women were expected to or had no choice but to continue working despite being ill!
Increased Cases of Early Marriage:
“I work in a village and I’ve seen that people are getting girls married to men twice their age and spending less in the process, all so that the burden of poverty is reduced. They’re spending less money on the wedding, with the thought that such a situation could create a big problem in the future. Better settle it now.”
COVID19 isn’t just a health crisis, it’s also a social and economic one. With so many children at home and the financial crisis exacerbating the issue, the Global Girlhood Report states that half a million girls are in danger of being married off early against their will, rather than returning to school. In fact, prior experience from the Ebola pandemic has shown that the longer girls are kept out of school, the less likely they are to return.
From the survey, we received some interesting responses.
- Both male (66%) and female (68%) respondents disagreed with the statement that because of financial problems created during COVID and the lockdown, it’s a good idea to get girls married at an early age
- About 10% of the participants mentioned instances of early or underage marriage of girls and 29% of girls married at the legal age in their locality or community during COVID and lockdown. Reasons for this included: lockdown restrictions meant spending less on the wedding, families wanting to reduce their financial ‘burdens’ by marrying off their daughters.
Violence and The Lockdown
“During Covid-19, the lack of work or jobs has affected many houses, because of which fights have started in the houses; because people are still unable to pay the house rent, electricity, water bills, and this is why I saw that the people have gone home to the villages.”
From the beginning of the very first wave of COVID19, reports of rising cases of domestic violence were doing the rounds. The National Commission of Women reported a 2.5 times increase in domestic violence reports in the first few months of the lockdown alone and a total of 23,722 complaints in 2020, of which 1/4th were domestic violence alone. These numbers, as stated by them, are the highest in 6 years.
Our survey, sadly, backs up these findings:
- 42% of respondents reported that they have seen/experienced any form of violence in their locality or community during lockdown. A majority of respondents reported that violence happened with women and girls both in the urban (78.1%) and rural (82.2%) area.
- Reasons for increase in domestic violence included: not doing household chores (44%), getting drunk (31%), abusing others (25%), spending more time resting, not studying (18%), financial problem (6%), stress, family pressure/no job (3%), and not doing the things immediately told by the man (1%).
“Girls were already not allowed to leave the house and now they are affected by constantly staying at home. Which has a bad effect on the mind.”
The lockdown, isolation and stress created by the pandemic is well documented. In our survey, we found much of the same. Around 68% of participants mentioned that the lockdown has affected the mental health of everyone. And both male (56%) and female (64%) respondents agreed with the statement that, because of COVID and the lockdown, the mental health impact on women/men and girls/boys has been bad.
“My aunt had a fast food shop, which was completely closed due to the lockdown and her mental health was also affected. There was a lot of difference in her behavior after that, especially because both of our families depended on it.”
The stories speak for themselves. Informal sector workers, largely staffed by women, were among the hardest hit by COVID and globally, we’ve seen women disproportionately affected by job loss related to the COVID economic downturn. According to Oxfam International, across the globe, women lost more than 64 million jobs which is 5% of the total jobs held by women. This is as compared to the 3.9% of jobs lost by men.
In our survey we found that:
- Both male (74%) and female (66%) respondents agreed with the statement that because of covid and lockdown, more women had lost their jobs.
- 48% of respondents mentioned that women have lost their jobs or have not received their wages/salaries
“There is nothing in the name of online classes, just photos being sent on the phone which children should complete. There is neither the right guidance nor proper studying, and for those who have two or three children at home, there is a fight between the children because of the mobile.”
The COVID pandemic presented an unprecedented shift in work and education. With schools being closed, the focus shifted to online classes and education. But the Internet and smartphone services remain a privilege and when push comes to shove, the needs of the most vulnerable are the ones left behind. As we know, the longer girls stay out of schools, the less likely they are to return and our survey confirms what global trends are showing: that girls are getting the short end of the stick in education.
- 37% of respondents stated that education has been affected by the lockdown and pandemic.
- Both male (68%) and female (57%) respondents agreed with the statement that during COVID and lockdown, girls ‘studies have been more affected in comparison to boys.
- 19% of the participants said that girls are facing worse consequences than boys.
- 10% respondents said that students are not able to access technology to attend online classes.
While our rapid survey was done in a limited capacity, it’s lining up with trends showing worldwide confirms the fact that as the world comes together to face the pandemic, we are once again leaving behind our vulnerable people. At the time when they most need our help. As we begin to pick ourselves up, we’re not actually doing anything until we help everyone. As the numbers show, we have our job cut out for us but it’s a work worth doing.