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The Gender Perspective

How community organisations are helping tackle the virus impact on women and girls

The spread of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the globe, with the burden of both primary and secondary effects of the virus falling heavy on developing countries.

In places where women are treated as inferior, the coronavirus is exacerbating their plight.

While the planet’s entire population has been forced to spend more time indoors than ever before, for some this has meant being exposed to a greater threat of vulnerability.

Reports of domestic abuse have increased worldwide in the past few months, meanwhile support services have had to cut back their responses.

In addition to domestic physical and sexual abuse, women have also suffered from having restricted access to sexual and reproductive health clinics, and access to basic sanitary supplies.

Upon launching the Common Goal COVID-19 Response Fund – whereby financial support would be offered to football-based community organisations whose operations would be severely and immediately affected – Common Goal sought to address this form of gender inequality.

Within grant applications, organisations were specifically asked how the pandemic would affect their attempts to support their female beneficiaries during the crisis.

We take a look at the main grievances in those communities, and the measures being implemented to curb the spread of emotional and physical violence.

Sexual and Physical Domestic Abuse

Many football for good organisations work with victims of domestic abuse, predominantly women in disadvantaged communities.

Unfortunately, the rate of abuse cases has steadily risen since the onset of COVID-19 lockdown. To compound matters, support services have also had to be cut due to lack of resources and social distancing measures.

Sexual, physical, and mental abuse of women is most prevalent in disadvantaged areas, where machismo, violent culture exists.

In Peru, for example, football for good organisation Asociación Civil Los Pioneros, have received an influx of calls reporting incidents of sexual and physical abuse. The organisation are trying to meet the demand for support and advice as best they can.

Similar steps are being followed by organisations around the world. In Kenya, Carolina for Kibera have remarked a lack of urgency from government authorities to respond to sexual and physical abuse reports.

In light of COVID-19, already limited resources and funding have been diverted to more immediate needs in the most vulnerable communities.

While there is a fine line between saving more immediate health concerns, greater support is needed for women in vulnerable communities.

A gender-sensitive perspective of COVID-19

It is important that organisations responding to the COVID-19 crisis are aware of the disproportionately negative effects of the crisis on girls and women, and the need to design their response actions accordingly.

While women are more prominently affected by the secondary effects of the virus, this is not always reflected in an organisation’s efforts to tackle the issue.

This becomes even more important to monitor and integrate when funds are scarce and harder to come by.

Organisations like Servicios de Educación y Promoción Juvenil (SEPROJOVEN) are making sure that women are being heard in communities across Latin America.

The most substantial action in this regard are the implementation of regular women's circles, where every girl can communicate her problems in a safe space free from gender related violence.

Showing awareness of the most vulnerable in communities is key to tackling the psychological and emotional effects of this deadly virus in vulnerable communities around the globe.

Clarity and feasibility of planned actions to support vulnerable members of a society during the crisis is of the utmost importance.

Access to Sanitation and Health Services

Amid the onset of COVID-19 lockdown measures, access to basic sanitation and health services have been greatly reduced.

These health cutbacks are depriving women of access to simple materials like sanitation pads, and other menstrual health services.

In Uganda, Watoto Wasoka have noticed a radical reduction in access to menstrual and sexual health services.

The virus has disrupted access to critical sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.

Those of which include pregnant women, who require antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to go to the clinic; as well as women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.

Carolina for Kibera (Kenya) has observed an increase in number of women and girls requesting for sanitary products, pregnancy tests and STD screening as well as cases referred for counselling post gender-based violence cases.

Women in lower income industry jobs

In developing countries, women are proportionately more likely to work in lower paid industry jobs which leaves them more susceptible to the spread of the virus.

While most of this work has been stopped or temporarily paused, many women are still forced to work and provide for their families.

For South African-based football for good organisation Amandla, the majority of children in their communities are raised by mothers or grandmothers, leaving the duty of providing food for families on women.

Additionally, many women in South African townships gain income through jobs in the service industry and domestic/cleaning work-- all of which are currently closed as nonessential businesses.

Providing grocery vouchers helps women to provide for their families, despite significant losses of income.

Similar issues are occurring in Haiti. The running of a rural Haitian household falls predominantly on women and young girls. The increased stress of not being able to go to the market or create income has created more stress on female community members.

Staff at football for good organisation GOALS Haiti are working with community members on how to stay positive and work together to solve issues of tension that may arise in the household.

Women seeking refuge and protection services

As a result of lockdown restrictions worldwide, women seeking refuge from abusive households are not able to leave these dangerous environments.

These refuge centres are also having to reduce services and the amount of women they can accept into their facilities have had to be cut.

Organisations like love.fútbol are seeking to ease the burden on women in dangerous households across Latin America.

Together with local partners, they have begun to disseminate information on how to avail of these services.

While services are limited at this time, the organisation is trying to ensure that all women and children in volatile situations can be addressed.

In Germany, CHAMPIONS ohne GRENZEN is providing phone counselling services to women living in volatile environemnts, and crowded refugee centres.

While lockdown restrictions are in place, and face to face counselling is limited, an online platform is essential for these women.

With the Common Goal COVID-19 Response Fund currently in it’s second phase, alongside the 27 community organisations already receiving financial support and those who might need help in due course, Common Goal will continue to monitor how it can best support women before allocating funds.

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