Press Release: COVID-19 risks creating and exacerbating women’s vulnerabilities and gender inequalities in Palestine, warns UN Women
Jerusalem, 06 May, 2020
Unless gender is integrated into national and institutional efforts to combat COVID-19 in Palestine, the pandemic’s socio-economic impact would aggravate gender inequalities and women’s vulnerabilities, according to a new gender analysis by UN Women.
As of today, there are 538 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, according to World Health Organization (WHO). On March 5, an emergency state was announced and lockdown measures have followed across the Palestinian Territory. This comes at a time when Palestinian capacity for emergency response is significantly reduced by the Israeli occupation, intra-Palestinian strife and a dire economic situation.
To increase understanding of the gender-specific impact of COVID-19 and ensure that the needs and priorities of all Palestinians are fairly and effectively addressed in response plans, UN Women conducted a rapid gender analysis. Based on preliminary data collection, surveys and meetings that UN Women had with more than 30 women-led organizations and woman leaders in the West Bank and Gaza, the report warns that the pandemic is expected to disproportionately affect women, create and exacerbate pre-existing gender-specific risks and vulnerabilities and widen inequalities.
Women represent nearly 60 per cent of workers in the care sector in Palestine and 70 per cent of frontline health workers, making them more exposed to the virus. Yet, men enjoy much higher levels of political and community participation and engagement in the fight against COVID-19. For example, 52 per cent of men said that they volunteered in their community, compared to 24 per cent for women. This makes Palestinian women’s voices go mostly unheard on how to respond to the pandemic.
"We must not forget that the COVID-19 pandemic affects women, girls, men and boys differently, and this important report highlights the different needs arising from this emergency.” Said Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations Resident Coordinator for the OPT.
With unemployment already very high, and even more for women, the current lockdown measures can exacerbate economic insecurity. The study found that the lockdown and closures of schools has increased the burden of unpaid care work on women and girls. This is particularly stressful for women who were requested to work from home while also expected to take care of the children and housework. According to a survey by AWRAD, whose findings informed the gender analysis, women are more concerned than men about the increasing household burdens (62 per cent and 46 per cent respectively). Sixty-eight per cent of women said that their household work has
Domestic and gender-based violence (GBV) against women has also worsened since lockdown measures were put in place. Women’s organizations are reporting increase in GBV incidence. The Palestinian Working Women Society alone reported more than 510 GBV calls in the span of less than two weeks. Similarly, SAWA, another women’s organisation, has reported a 10 per cent increase in calls and three cases of suicide attempts. At the same time, restrictions on movements and services prevent women and girls from accessing essential services, including health, protection, security and justice. Rrestrictions on movement also risk normalizing prevalent patriarchal conceptions that “women’s place is at home”. Moreover, women’s unequal access to information and connectivity is likely to make them more vulnerable to the negative impacts of confinement.
“The way we respond to COVID-19 will have consequences for women, men, boys and girls in Palestine.” Said Ms. Maryse Guimond, UN Women Special Representative for the OPT. “The only way to effectively support them is to ensure that the response takes into account their gender, age and vulnerability.”
Collect sex- and age-disaggregated data and analysis to inform and guide planning and response to the pandemic;
The Arabic press release can be found here: Arabic