It’s already been reiterated how we are living in a drastically changed world from what we knew pre-pandemic. The way we live and do business has had to change, therefore, the question begs – what is the next normal for everyone going forward? What does the future look like for women working in the frontlines? And is the hope for a more equal post-COVID-19 future?
The impact on already vulnerable groups, such as women, young people, people living with disabilities (PWDs), has been significant. The historical moves made to equalize the playing field, are likely to be negated by the pandemic.
The informal sector, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic’s lock-downs and curfews, constitutes more than 90% of the labor force in sub-Saharan Africa, and most are entrepreneurial women.
Families that are run by women, who rely on small businesses for income and many only being able to find employment unless they are able to present a negative COVID-19 result slip, continue to face high risks of economic insecurity, increased cases of violence, exploitation, abuse, and harassment.
As we celebrate #InternationalWomensDay (#IWD2021) on the 8th of March, the theme of #ChooseToChallenge asks us to ‘collectively’ help create an inclusive world’ for all vulnerable groups especially women.
Furthermore, the UN theme – cuts across some of the most affected topics including healthcare, finance, and policymaking. Women are being tasked to understand their role in achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world & desiring to know what it is we can all do in our different spheres of influence to achieve this.
Women make up nearly 68% of caregivers in their homes, and a majority bear the burden of caring for the sick, weak, and young. It is also a fact that they are over-represented as workers in the health care system making up almost 70% of the healthcare workforce.
By providing quality access to good healthcare and medical assistance to families when needed, we can all look forward to a future in which all our loved ones are not ravaged by this or any other pandemic.
Kelly Kinuthia, Corporate Manager at Sahl Health affirms the need for healthcare systems, as well as governance policies to align with the needs of women across the globe. “We should all rise to promote new governance models in the health sector that allow for co-creation with all stakeholders including women. Women should be involved in leading the recovery after Covid-19 and the response to future emergencies.”
It is estimated that lockdown measures across the globe affect almost 2.7 billion workers – almost 81% of the world’s workforce. Reports show that there is a disproportionate effect between women and men. Women in general, have lower capacities to absorb this incoming economic shock due to less access to social protection.
With business picking up in the coming months, we can choose to challenge the idea of any woman-run businesses failing. As of 2019, women-owned businesses only made 30 cents to every dollar generated by privately held companies.
The effects of this pandemic can only be mitigated through assistance from government and private firms at a greater level than was already being provided.
“We cannot allow this pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women,” shared Suzanne Clark – President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Josephine Mutungi, owner of Recordez explains that with her customer base being school-going children, she could no longer afford to keep her physical store open, and opted to delve into online selling: “Moving to a virtual office at Nairobi Garage has enabled me to reduce expenses and keep my business thriving during this crisis. I am now able to network with a larger marketplace and delivery has also become much easier.”
By enabling women to have a seat at the table, it will lead to them accessing leadership and decision roles. This in turn means that more vulnerable groups will be given a voice, growing their access to information, and helpful mechanisms to help survive the aftershocks of the pandemic’s effects.
Women, their loved ones, and businesses do not need to succumb to this pandemic. Our leaders should be at the forefront of cultivating conversations about how we can work to decrease the disparity especially in areas such as access to business funding and healthcare.
The quest to create the ‘next normal’ should be the trigger that we all need to create a more equal society – and the change starts with you.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Featured photo by Omotayo Tajudeen from Pexels