By Ashleigh Jinjika
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to progress toward gender equality and, instead, exacerbated existing gender inequalities across domains, from gendered divisions of labour to economic stability.
Zimbabwe has some glaring gender inequalities that have arose in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year 2020 was earmarked for reflection upon the progress made toward gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls(United Nations 2020). Ironically, the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light both new and existing gender inequalities.
Some of the most glaring gender inequalities that have arisen had a very negative impact on both the livelihood and survival of women.
Zimbabwe has some of the most glaring gender inequalities emerging from research on the COVID-19 crisis.
These inequalities exist across domains, including; health and well-being, the home, relational violence, work and poverty, and leadership.
Although the severity and mortality rate of COVID-19 infection is twice as high for men as for women, the virus has taken a disproportionate toll on the everyday psychological and physical health of women. Compared to men, women reported greater stress and anxiety during the initial stages of the lockdown in Zimbabwe as well as greater psychological distress following the initial lockdown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also put women’s physical and reproductive health in jeopardy, as the government reallocated resources to the care of COVID-19 patients. Service closures particularly concerning reproductive health were affected resulting in unsafe abortions and many unwanted pregnancies.
Household and childcare responsibilities increased for many during the pandemic, but gender inequalities were most apparent among those with children. While mothers reported a greater increase in domestic and care work than fathers, they also reported a decrease in work hours, while fathers’ work hours largely remained stable. Moreover, mothers were more likely to be solely responsible for educating their children. In addition to putting more time strain on women, these inequalities can have a negative impact on women’s well-being and relationship satisfaction.
Relational violence increased during the lockdown periods. In most cases, women were victims of such violence than men.. At national level there has been an increase of calls to crisis lines, online searches related to intimate partner violence, and actual reports of abuse.