‘Covid-19 Increases Inequalities And Violence Against Women And Girls’

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By Anna Chibamu

THE Covid-19 pandemic has worsened gender inequalities as women and girls continue to bear the brunt of unpaid labour, while being disproportionately at risk of violence compared to their male counterparts.

As the country celebrates International Women’s Day this Monday, the Zimbabwe Spotlight Initiative reports that the pandemic has cast a pall on the progress made in achieving gender equality by 2030 in Zimbabwe as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Covid -19 broke out last year and since then, “all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified with teenage pregnancies also said to be on the rise as a result of lockdowns.”

Women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni in her report, on Gender Based Violence (GBV) in parliament this past week, revealed that 900 girls below 18 had been raped in the last quarter of 2020 alone.

The Zimbabwe Spotlight Initiative, in a statement released Sunday, highlighted that measures taken to curb the spread of the disease, such as the national lockdowns had resulted in what is now dubbed “The Shadow Pandemic” as emerging data and reports from those on the frontlines have shown that violence against women and girls has risen sharply during the Covid-19 period.

Added the Initiative, “the world has come to understand that violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights. Such a recognition illustrates that gender-based violence is not as a result of women and girls’ innate vulnerability, but a deeply-rooted structural discrimination against women and girls that perpetuates gender inequality.

“Gender inequality lies at the very root of gender-based violence, and unless the issue is addressed, a future where women and girls live free from violence and discrimination is futile.”

The partners led by United Nation’s Country Representative Maria Ribeiro and support from the European Union (EU) which has poured US$21million in the 1st phase of the implementation of the initiative say while the Covid-19 pandemic continues and efforts to curb its spread intensify, “now is the time to equally buckle up and work hard to achieve gender equality in spite of the challenges the pandemic has revealed”.

“This is a matter of urgency as women are at the forefront of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic as healthcare and frontline workers both at institutional level and at home.”

Elimination of violence against women and girls is said to be critical now more than ever in the fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe as government fears more women and girls are not reporting violence perpetrated against them to relevant authorities.

The Spotlight Initiative, led by the UN Resident Coordinator, is being implemented by six UN Agencies (UN Women, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and UNICEF) in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, Parliament, Independent Commissions, Civil Society, Academic Institutions, the Private Sector, and the Media and directly and indirectly targets 11 million beneficiaries, particularly rural women and girls, women and girls with disabilities and those living with HIV.