By Nomalanga Makwelo
Emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has increased and exposed the existing socio-economic inequalities within society.
This is said to be fueled by the existing patriarchal social norms which have resulted in these inequalities which are biased against women.
According to Emthonjeni Women ‘s Forum Communications Manager Mellisa Ndlovu, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a disproportionate impact on women ‘s economic and productive lives as compared to men.
” The pandemic has disrupted the livelihoods of women who constitute 65% of the informal sector through limiting their access to public spaces and social interactions, which their job heavily depends on. The pandemic has also increased cases of gender based violence in women by locking them down with their perpetrators , thereby exposing them to sexual , emotional and physical violence , which takes away their power to speak and voice out their views in their households as well as their communities.”
Ndlovu added that the unemployment created by the pandemic which has seen a lot of men being laid off their work has created tension in homes, leading to frustration being taken out on women and leaving them vulnerable towards all sorts of abuse.
According to a report by Stop Abuse and Female Exploitation (SAFE), statistics from the Msasa National Gender Based Violence hotline indicated that since the beginning of the lockdown period from the 30th of March 2020 ,764 cases of GBV were recorded 11days into the lockdown as compared to the 500 cases recorded pre lockdown, with 94% of the calls being from women.
Ndlovu also stated that the increment of gender inequalities throughout the pandemic would be seen through an increment in early child marriage cases throughout the country.
Ndlovu ‘s remarks come after a ministerial report on the level of public service delivery related to sexual and gender based violence in the Covid-19 pandemic was presented by the Minister of Women Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprise development Dr . Sthembiso Nyoni before parliament last month, indicating an increment in gender based violence as reports showed how 24 cases of child marriage were recorded in Matebeleland South, as well as an increase in rape cases which spiked from 836 to 900 from October last year up to the 5th of February this year.
Ndlovu recommended that the inequalities presented by the pandemic can be solved through government coming up with a framework to ensure that women thrive economically and socially.
“I think there is a need for transformation in terms of cultural and religious practices that burden the woman with care work there is need to start talking about gender equality within the home and people helping each other in care work.”