COVID-19: A huge leap backwards for women’s rights


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Chennai, 18 February 2021. – Aide et Action, an international association for development through education, paints a pessimistic picture of the development of the rights of girls and women. Thus, at the same time of school desertion, they are more and more forced to stay at home. This is especially the case in the least developed countries. If action is not taken now, the “Next World”, which is slow to come due to the alarming development of the pandemic, risks starting with an intolerable decline in their rights. “All it takes is a tantrum …” warned Simone de Beauvoir. The crisis is here and consequences for women were not long in coming. Indeed, around the world, the economic, social, and political impacts of COVID-19 are particularly stressful for girls and women. Women (who represent 70% of health workers) [1] were immediately more exposed to the virus and to excess workload, leading, in fact, to excess physical and mental fatigue for them. In contexts of lockdown, they have predominantly, and in accordance with prevailing social, cultural, and ideological norms, assumed the burden of all domestic tasks, and in particular those related to the care and education of children. 2 With the shutdown of basic services, their access to care and family planning has been severely hampered, which has resulted in an increase in unwanted pregnancies 3 and unsafe abortions, as well as a deprivation of any possibility of dedicated assistance and support. The COVID-19 pandemic has also undermined efforts to tackle early marriage. Due to the increase in poverty linked to the crisis, 11 million girls, from pre-primary to tertiary education, are at risk of not returning to school 4 and more than 13 million girls 5, under the age of 18 years, could be forcibly married between 2020 and 2030. In almost all countries of the world, 6 lockdowns have, moreover, favoured an increase in violence committed against women. The current crisis in women’s rights is no different from other crises, both social and economic. It demonstrates, unfortunately and once again, that nothing is ever taken for granted for girls and women and that they remain, despite everything, victims of gender stereotypes and male domination that bring them back within the four walls of their homes and make them vulnerable to violence and injustice while keeping them away from emancipatory education. Vanessa Martin, Advocacy Officer at Aide et Action, insists: “We are working in delicate areas where girls’ access to education was already far from being achieved. With the COVID-19 crisis, which will durably affect economies and populations of all countries, the status of women will most likely take a huge leap backwards”. Associations and NGOs must be extremely vigilant and encourage states to rapidly promote proactive policies in favour of the rights of girls and women. 8 March 2021 will therefore be an opportunity to seize for the construction of the “Next World”: we must give back to half of humanity the active and civic place which has been taken from within society for many centuries! About Aide et Action For 40 years, Aide et Action, an international association for development through education, has been ensuring access to quality education for the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, in particular children, girls, and women, so that each and everyone can manage their own development and contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world. Because access to quality education makes it possible to fight poverty and disease, limit climate change and build peace in a sustainable world, we promote lifelong learning. Thus, we pay particular attention to early childhood education and protection, access, and quality of education at primary and secondary levels, as well as vocational training and social integration. By basing our intervention on the values of dignity, inclusion, and integrity, as well as on the principles of action of transparency, accountability and solidarity, and thanks to the support of our 51,000 donors, we are currently carrying out 83 projects in Africa, Asia, Europe – and in particular in France – for more than 1.9 million children, young people and adults. Press Contact: Chandra Kiran Katta, Manager – Communications [1] Inter-Agency Standing Committee, ASC Reference Group for gender in humanitarian action, GENDER ALERT IN COVID-19 PANDEMIC , March 2020 2 Unpaid Care Work: The missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labour outcomes OECD Development Centre, December 2014 3 The number of unwanted pregnancies because of lack of family planning and birth control could go up to 15 million, UNFPA, State of the World Population 2020, 2020 4 UNESCO 2020 5 UNFPA, State of the World Population 2020, 2020 6 For 3 months of lockdown it is estimated that the number of cases of domestic violence has increased by 15 million, UNFPA, Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage, 2020, https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/COVID-19_impact_brief_for_UNFPA_24_April_2020_1.pdf