An unequal world

From health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of Covid-19 are made worse for women by virtue of their gender

An unequal world

The theme announced by United Nations Population Fund for this year is: How to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now around the world especially during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. UNFPA research had emphasised that if lockdowns continue for six months and there was a major interruption to health services, then 47 million women in low and middle-income countries might not have access to modern contraceptives. This might in turn lead to 7 million unplanned pregnancies. Apart from that, there could be a rise in gender-based violence, reproduction complications and child marriages.

From health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of Covid-19 were made worse for women and girls by virtue of their gender. Compounded economic impacts (740 million women globally work in informal economy) are felt especially by women and girls who are generally earning less, saving less and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty.

The disease has caused an increase in women’s duties of caring for elderly and ill family members. Girls, especially those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak.

A policy brief initiated by United Nations focuses on each of these issues in turn, exploring how women’s lives are changing. Covid-19 is not only a challenge for global health systems, but also a test of our human life. Recovery must lead to a more equal world that is more resilient to future crises. It is critical that all national responses focus on women and their inclusion, representation, rights, social and economic outcomes, equality and protection to have the necessary impacts.

The report also suggests solutions that are already at hand, while making the point that success requires much more than a disconnected series of projects or services, as important as these may be. Sustained progress largely depends on displacing gender inequality and all forms of discrimination and transforming the social and economic structures that maintain them. In this, men must become allies. The Covid-19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to restrict or roll back women’s access to reproductive health services and rights, which must continue to be prioritised, funded and recognised as lifesaving.

The world’s population is growing by about 83 million people annually. Every year the world continues to get more and more crowded.

The Covid-19 crisis has taken a shocking toll on people, communities and economies everywhere. But not everyone is affected equally. Women, who account for a large share of frontline health workers, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. As health systems struggle to cope, reproductive health services are being sidelined and gender-based violence is on the rise. Nearly 60 percent of women worldwide work in the informal economy, at more risk of falling into poverty. Women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people.

More than 200 million women in developing countries currently have an unmet need for family planning materials.

The recent past has seen massive changes in fertility rates and life expectancy. In the early 1970s, women had on average of 4.5 children each; by 2015, total fertility for the world had fallen to below 2.5 children per woman. Meanwhile, average global lifespans have risen, from 64.6 years in the early 1990s to 72.6 years in 2019. In addition, the world has seen high levels of urbanisation and migration. 2007 was the first year in which more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas; by 2050 about 66 per cent of the world population will be living in cities.

More than 200 million women in developing countries currently have an unmet need for family planning materials, meaning they do not want to get pregnant but are not using modern contraceptive methods. Research published by the Guttmacher Institute shows that this is often because they are unable to access family planning but more frequently because of concerns about side effects and misinformation. In nearly a quarter of cases, it is because their male partners or others close to them oppose contraceptive use.

Half of the population growth from 2017 to 2050 will take place in nine countries, i.e. India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia.

Pakistan is world’s fifth-most populous country, with a population exceeding 225.2 million. A high birth rate and fast growth have put the country on a path to disaster. Increasingly crowded schools, clinics and poor communities mean that Pakistan could soon start to face tragic issues. With 60 percent of the population under 30, nearly a third of the country’s population living under the international poverty line, and only 58 percent of the country being literate, the country is poised to face crisis. Pakistan has also undergone dramatic social changes in the past few decades, with a shift towards rapid urbanisation and the emergence of megacities.

The impact of uneven socioeconomic development, coupled with the influence of tribal and feudal systems means that the status of women in Pakistan differs greatly across classes, regions and rural and urban spaces. Pakistan takes in a high number of refugees. As a result of existing food insecurity, there is already an issue with malnutrition and stunting.

However, Pakistan is in the process of taking control over Covid-19. The economy is reinstating and capital reserves are showing an increasing trend. Let us observe the World Population Day by promising ourselves to be more responsible towards the alarming rate of growing population.


The writer is a freelance    journalist. He can be reached at    [email protected]

An unequal world