As we move toward unlocking phase, now it is time to refocus on social protection programs toward women and girls bearing burden of daily humdrum. Especially, women who are hit by contraction of employment due to current global situations. These women engage in vulnerable forms of work. They often are over represented in sector facing largest economic disruption. Not to mention that there care taking responsibilities have increased as compared to men. School closures have put girls at huge risk of unequal access to distance learning, permanent drop-out from schools, child marriage, and sexual abuse. It is stress caused by high level of restriction that has led to rise in gender-based violence.
Shaping Social Protection Programs
Today world leaders are taking pledge to “build back better” from pandemic. In plethora of places, social protection and other safety program have emerged. Presently, approximately 195 countries expanded to implementing social protection measures in response to pandemic. From our previous experience, we know that what we can do to empower the woman during these locking/unlocking phase. Leveraging comprehensive guidance, designing gender-sensitive social protection, engaging women beyond their traditional roles is all part of social protection programs. These programs have demonstrated to deliver various benefits across multiple dimensions. In other words, these social protection programs hold greater learning for women. One of such programs helped women in Northern Nigeria in evaluation of livelihood. Since this area is one of most impacted by current situations; they require frequent distribution of payments. For example, quarterly cash payments or transfer yields a good positive impact on women’s work. This increase in household food security. Therefore, one single design adaption often enables lowering implementation costs. Also, there is fewer required interaction.
Innovation Is Key
While we all are in this global situation, at someplace there is an overwhelming sense of urgency. Limited bandwidth and other reasons hold these areas back. In such areas, these types of programming can bring forward full array of possibilities. On the other hand, opportunities are unfolding to test new ideas. In one such case from Togo, there is implementation of unconditional cash transfer scheme. This scheme offers larger benefits to women, implement quick delivery through mobile money, etc. Also, safety programs for women involved solidarity fund of women vendors. In Argentine, there are paid leaves for all workers who have dependent children in family.
Learning Is Power
All these efforts are exciting and bringing joy in lives of millions of people. These attempts around world could impact beyond any other events in history. So, explore various designs to pick what works best to maximize women’s empowerment in your community. For example, top-up payments, complementary goo, and emergency cash can reduce impact from pandemic.
Area Of Focus
As response to COVID-19 outbreak, adaption to new empowerment programs could reverse the impact. Taking tailored approach toward most vulnerable communities is key. Here, some of areas to focus on are: –
- Sanitation, Hygiene, and Water: First things first, installing hand washing facilities
at workplace and home is essential. Also, sharing hygiene and menstrual kits to rural areas, proper gender-specific health awareness and hygiene information could make a difference.
- General Health: Next, there is need to extend essential services to girls and young women. For example, sexual and reproductive health services, newborn, and child health services.
- Information Vs. Education: Preparing teacher training programs and courses for key workers on prevention/control of pandemic is important. Parents and community-wide leaders must support learning, development, well being of child especially when schools are closed. Parents could take a step forward and prepare own teaching aid for their children.
- Child Protection: Lastly, raising awareness in times of panic, child protection in lock down, and awareness on gender-based violence should be distributed. To do this, leverage various channels for example TV, internet, radio, and poster, etc. Ensure there is a clear system for children including special support, and psycho social counseling.
While families losing income, support with cash/donation/funding distribution is way to ensure that essential needs are met. Also, communities, traditional and religious leaders could plan of providing awareness on outbreak and upcoming steps to take. Establishing friendly feedback can ensure that communities become more secure. Let’s move towards building sustainable societies where individual people feel safe.