Why March4Women matters more than ever

There is no doubt that these unprecedented times will take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable around the world. Once again, women will face unique challenges during this emergency–not just here in Canada but in countries across the globe.

Around the world, women and girls are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they bear a greater responsibility for doing domestic chores and nursing sick family members. A woman is most likely to be the one checking in on aging parents or to be providing hands-on care for her children.

During a crisis, women and children both face an increase in violence. Gender-based violence surges in humanitarian settings during a crisis, and local organizations have flagged that, as supports such as women’s shelters are forced to close, women may be at greater risk of intimate partner violence.

Women worldwide are more likely to be employed in informal, low-wage activities that are highly prone to disruption during public health emergencies. Female migrant workers who are engaged in care giving and domestic work are likely to be hard hit as COVID-19 surfaces a rise in xenophobia. In many countries, women comprise more than 75 per cent of the health care work force, increasing the likelihood that they will be exposed to risks like COVID-19.

The issues of inequality, in accessing basic human rights, are shared by women and girls around the globe. But as Canadians, we have access to so many supports in this time of crisis that simply aren’t available to the women and girls we work with.

While many children around the world are out of school in an effort to combat the outbreak, girls in development and humanitarian contexts may be particularly affected. For displaced or refugee children, school may be the only safe space they can interact with their peers and might even be a reliable source of food. In developing countries, girls are more likely to be pulled out of school to help provide income for the family – sometimes leading to child, early or forced marriages.

Beyond existing challenges for many women and girls in accessing clean water, women and girls may find it more difficult to access menstrual hygiene products. As the prevalence of gender-based violence increases during emergencies and resources become scarcer, women and girls will be more vulnerable when travelling to collect water for household use-to-use latrines.

There is no doubt that is a difficult time for people the world over, including those you know and love. While we close our doors and distance ourselves physically, now is the time to join hearts, minds and voices in solidarity with those around the world who need us most.

We need to make March4Women so that we ALL arrive at the other side of this crisis together.