Women at the center of the response
Women, who often suffer from exploitation, violence and neglect, play the most committed role in any crisis. Nowadays, those who suffer the lack of access to water and sanitation are also the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The SDG 5 is in serious danger and we cannot tolerate this. No solution is possible without women being at the center of the response.
Women are on the front line to fight the pandemic, and every health crisis has a particular impact on them. It happened with zika in Latin America and with Ebola in Africa, when millions of women took on the responsibility of caring for the sick. Almost always, the lack of investments in health systems and in dependency aid makes women the shock force that cushions the lack of medical resources. In the last Ebola outbreak in Africa, in many cases the women working in field hospitals were the ones in charge of fetching water for the sick, while at the same time they had to take care of their children in spite of the risk of infection. According to the WHO, two thirds of the people infected with Ebola during the outbreak were women.
Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, women once again bear the brunt of the health struggle in medical centers and in their homes. Women’s unpaid care work has significantly increased as a consequence of the closure of schools and the increased needs of the elderly.
And in many countries they do it in spite of the cultural taboos that exclude and stigmatize them. In some cultures, like in India, the taboo of menstruation remains a social scourge that affects millions of women and significantly harms those without adequate sanitation for their privacy and basic hygiene needs. Also, in some societies, widows and raped women are the ones to be socially condemned. Now, with the pandemic, their future is much more uncertain.
Covid-19 could reverse the meager gains reached in terms of gender equality and women’s rights that make up Sustainable Development Goal . We cannot tolerate this. The struggle for access to water and sanitation has shown us that no solution is possible without women being at the center of the response. This is a key factor for the success of any health and economic recovery strategy.