• Jenny Foster

SDGs and Covid 19 : Gender snapshot

Pratha Garkoti is a Commonwealth Shared Scholar, Batch of 2018-19. She has a Master of Science in Gender and International Relations from the University of Bristol

The successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 seems all the less likely unless states and policy makers take urgent action to reverse the damage caused by Covid-19, and women have been more adversely affected.

Goal 1. Poverty

Research has shown how women aged between 25-34 are already 25% more likely to live in poverty than men. The poverty rate for women was expected to fall by 2.7% between 2019-2021, however due to COVID-19, it could rise by 9.1%, pushing 47 million more women and girls into poverty. It is expected that between 2021-2030, the number of women and girls living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa will increase from 249 million to 283 million.

Goal 2. Zero hunger

Women are more likely to not only eat last but also the least, which makes them 27% more vulnerable to food insecurity than men. Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown measures, many women are also struggling because of the role they play in food production and processing.

Goal 3. Good health and well-being

Women make up 70% of the world’s healthcare workers. Data collected on the confirmed cases of COVID-19 among healthcare workers from Spain, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Dominican Republic has highlighted that 72% are women. Furthermore, other medical services, especially sexual and reproductive health facilities, are being treated as non-essential because of which their funding, especially in war-torn countries, is being stopped. This could result in one million maternal deaths by 2030.

Goal 4. Quality education

A total of 1.7 billion children including nearly 743 million girls, out of which approximately 111 million girls are from the least developed countries are out of school due to COVID-19. Remote and online learning have been promoted as alternatives but only relying on the internet for education can be the source of many hurdles for poor women and girls living in poverty. Lack of access to technology is likely to result in increasing the gender gaps in education.

Goal 5. Gender equality

The pandemic has brought forward another ‘shadow pandemic’, i.e., a rise in violence against women, especially domestic violence. Since lockdowns are restricting movement and are forcing the survivors to live with their abusers, the number of domestic abuse cases have risen by 8.1% in the US, 175% in Colombia, and 70% in El Salvador.

Unpaid household work carried out by women has tripled during the pandemic. Child marriage and female genital mutation decreased by 25% between 2013-2018 and 2000-2018 respectively. However, school closures and economic hardships are stalling the progress. Even now, only one seat in every four is held by women in national parliaments.

Goal 6. Clean water and sanitation

The need for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities has increased since the pandemic.

Women and girls are not only responsible for water collection in 80% of households without access to water on premises. They are also more susceptible to become infected with WASH related diseases. Lack of clean sanitation facilities especially during menstruation and pregnancy is disproportionately affecting women.

Goal 7. Affordable and clean energy

Around 52% of the population across 124 countries and globally around three billion people - eight in every ten people in sub-Saharan Africa and six in every ten people in Central and Southern Asia - still depends on solid fuels such as coal and wood for cooking and heating. The lack of clean energy and the subsequent high levels of household air pollution is causing the premature death of nearly two million women a year. It also makes them twice as likely to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

Domestic workers and those employed in informal economies such as the garment factories are losing jobs, which has increased from 49.3% to 72.3% between March-June 2020. 67% of those affected were women.

Goal 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

The objective of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation is to transform the structure of economies. As the pandemic is causing a worldwide recession the manufacturing sector is facing major losses. Even though men represent the majority of workers in this sector, women’s livelihoods are more acutely affected than their male counterparts, as they are 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs.

Goal 10. Reduced inequalities

This pandemic is rightly being called the pandemic of inequality, which is exacerbating inequalities between vulnerable groups of women, through class, race, disability, religion and sexual identity. Our approach of intersectional feminism recognises these factors and takes the necessary steps to address them.

Goal 11. Sustainable cities and communities

Safe and affordable public transportation is an important asset in the process of making all cities inclusive and secure. COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a drop in public transportation, and consequently increased the cost of the available services affecting 69% of women, compared to 63% men in Asia.

Goal 12. Sustainable consumption and production + Goal 13. Climate action + Goal 14. Life below water + Goal 15. Life on land

The four goals combined together look at the climate change-gender nexus. Women are 14% more likely to die during a climate disaster. They play a significant role in agriculture, fetching water, fish processing and marketing. All of these activities are affected due to droughts, floods and ocean acidification.

Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Only 6.7% of the world's heads of government are women. Countries like New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland and Denmark, where women are leading the response show that their recovery efforts have fared better during COVID-19. There is still apprehension about women in leadership roles - despite the confirmed deaths being six times lower than in countries led by men.

Goal 17. Global partnerships for the goals

Women and girls require a stronger commitment via mobilization of adequate resources, fair and equitable technological capacity-building and accountable monitoring. Concerning equitable technology skills, it is becoming increasingly important that everyone has access to the internet. Globally, even though 4.1 billion people are online, only 48% of the world's female population know how to use the internet as compared to 58% men.

Looking Forward

The world was already lagging behind in achieving the SDGs by 2030 before the pandemic hit. By not choosing to allow more resources to healthcare, education, poverty alleviation programs, gender equality and human development prior to the pandemic, governments have failed to ‘leave no one behind’.

Gender equality is not only a goal in itself but is an important requisite for the achievements of all the other goals as well. Therefore, systematic gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is vital. Measures such as investing in green and sustainable infrastructure, repealing discriminatory laws, taking action to end violence against women, ensuring equal representation and participation in decision-making bodies for all, and re-allocating funding towards essential medical services will be imperative to achieving these goals. The promise of the 2030 Agenda - a better world for all - cannot be realised unless appropriate actions to advance gender equality are taken.

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