16
Apr

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on women in Zimbabwe.

Important quotes: “…Lets not wait for the COVID-19 crisis to broaden gender inequalities and hit women harder, Its time to take action…” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director UN Women.

“…COVID-19 could reverse the limited but important progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. Women’s leadership and contributions must be at the centre of Coronavirus resilience and recovery efforts…” António Guterres, UN Secretary General.

“…One of the main things we’ve learned in the past months about COVID-19 is that the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated & care for, the harder we make it for the virus to spread…”  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Women fetching water at a communal borehole in Chitungwiza last week…

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), notes with grave concern the rising incidences of systematic state security crackdown targeting women as the country goes through the third week of the government-proclaimed lockdown meant to stop the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As of today 16 April 2020, Zimbabwe has 23 confirmed cases including three deaths of the COVID-19 virus according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. While it is expected that the security forces are supposed to exercise restraint and act in a professional manner, especially when dealing with the public, this has not been the case as there are several reports surfacing of security forces abusing people and among them women.

Women as the majority of primary care givers and burdened with domestic and unpaid care work are being harassed when they go out to look for water at communal water points, food in supermarkets or even medicines in pharmacies. Recently a young woman, Lucia Masvondo from Chikangwe in Karoi was beaten up by soldiers at night at her homestead and in the process, they set dogs on her resulting in her sustaining several injuries on her body. There was also a video circulating on social media of police officers beating up women whilst they were lying on the ground. More worrying is that these incidences do not get reported as the perpetrators are the same people whom victims should seek recourse from.

In addition to the brutality, there has been credible reports pointing to partisan distribution of aid and other social safety nets by the Government meant for both the vulnerable households and the informal sector. With women making the majority of those in the informal sector, it is of great concern that lack of transparency in aid distribution which is being closely administered by the largely male leadership can only affect women more and leave them vulnerable as they are likely to be left out. Cases of domestic violence are also on an increase with close to 1 000 cases reported countrywide.

In light of the enormous challenges brought about by the virus, WALPE appeals to the Government to consider implementing the following:

  • Conduct mass and decentralized detection, testing, treatment, isolation and contact tracing services to all suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • Run a robust campaign to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
  • Bring to book all state security officials responsible for perpetrating gross human rights violations countrywide.
  • Come up with a broad-based awareness raising program to make people understand the implications of the virus on themselves and their loved ones.
  • To ensure aid and other essentials are distributed in a non-partisan and transparent manner.
  • To put into effect all the court rulings so far on COVID-19 comprising of the following access to water, stop security forces brutality on civilians, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical personnel and front-line workers, desist from partisan distribution of aid and make sure they conduct mass and decentralized testings and treatments of all suspected cases of COVID-19.

WALPE also calls upon the Government to seriously consider the following six conditions developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as preconditions for lifting lockdowns:

1. Disease transmission is under control

2. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”

3. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes

4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures

5. The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”

6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal

WALPE is monitoring and documenting the impact of the virus on women countrywide. The organization is also training its Women Leadership Network (WALAN) members online on how to prevent the spread on the virus in communities.  For more updates on the effects of the virus on women in various communities, kindly follow our social media pages: Facebook- Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence: twitter- @WalpeAcademy : Instagram- Walpe Academy.