Women in India: COVID-19 Impact, Response and Policy Environment
– By Angad Bagai, Atul Sukumar, and Samridhi Puri
Inputs from: Priyanka Cardoz
Data inputs from: Sansiddha Pani
Sattva has looked to understand the impact of COVID-19 on women in India through a consolidated gender lensed analysis, including the response to the pandemic through social protection, stimulus packages and other interventions. Further, this research and analysis focused on understanding how changes in the policy environment worked in practise, identifying challenges that reduced effectiveness, and concluded with recommendations and best practices that can help build a holistic, gender-lensed response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the short and long term.
The Gendered Impact of COVID-19 in India
COVID-19 causes women to suffer disproportionately whether through impact on their incomes, savings, agency, or access to healthcare.
a) Women’s Livelihoods and Income Security: The nationwide lockdown imposed by the Government of India and overall economic turmoil created by the COVID-19 crisis created compounded economic impacts that are felt especially by women and girls- who are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or are living close to poverty. Between March and April 2020 alone, an estimated 17 million women in both the formal and informal sectors, were left jobless.
b) Women’s Social Welfare: COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing social barriers and decreased women’s ability to access essential services. The challenges include difficulties in accessing adequate food and nutrition, gaps in access to basic healthcare as supply chains for essential medicines and reproductive health services are interrupted. The pandemic has had a long-reaching impact on mental health, and has increased the prevalence of oppressive manifestations of gender inequality, like domestic violence (estimated that over 31 million cases of gender-based violence would occur if the lockdown in India went on for 6 months. )
Additionally, given the uncertain nature of the impact of pandemic and the length of time it will last, along with the very nascent understanding in the ecosystem of how successful or effective the response to it has been, it is vital to look at the long-term impact of COVID-19 on women in India. A number of reports suggest that the long-term impact could be significant enough to roll back gains made over decades for women’s empowerment globally, partly because in the rush to address the looming public health crisis, most nations have failed to take a gender-intentional approach when planning their responses.
Read more in this piece analysing the response, delivery mechanisms, and the way forward, for a holistic, gender-lensed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Angad Bagai is a Consultant in the Retained Research Advisory team at Sattva and is based out of Gurgaon. At Sattva, Angad has worked primarily on an engagement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Gender Equality vertical, working to establish a Gender Secretariat for strategic research, advisory and knowledge management support for the Gates Foundation.
Atul Sukumar is a Senior Consultant in the Retained Research Advisory team at Sattva, working on research-driven strategic advisory for large foundations and multilateral organisations, with a focus on gender and livelihoods. As part of the Retained Research Advisory team, he focuses on delivering consistent and long-term value for development programmes and portfolios. He has worked across functions, including strategy design, advisory support, primary and secondary research, market entry and organisational diagnostics.
Samridhi Puri is an Associate Consultant the Retained Research Advisory team at Sattva based out of Gurgaon. At Sattva, Samridhi has worked on multiple projects with wide-ranging subjects such as gender, human rights, human trafficking, philanthropy and natural resource management.
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