COVID-19: The Rise and Downfall of Women Across the WorldYolandaAD
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the spotlight has shone on governments, economies, and the current state of leadership across the world. The virus outbreak has highlighted many cracks within the global system, particularly capitalism, globalization, and political leadership.
However, to many people’s surprise, it has become apparent that female leadership in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Norway has been exemplary compared to their male counterparts in many parts of the world such as the USA and UK. This begs the question: Is COVID-19 the crisis we needed to afford women leaders around the world the credit they deserve?
Common features of the success of these women leaders are resilience, pragmatism, benevolence, trust in collective common sense, mutual aid and humility. Unfortunately, the success of female leaders in these unprecedented times doesn’t erase the hardships and injustices women face daily during this pandemic. In South Africa, the implementation of a national lockdown in March 2020 may have been beneficial to ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 infection rates but has been detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of the many women whose homes have never been safe places for them.
The lockdown, though possibly necessary to match the health needs of the population with the country’s dysfunctional health sector, has given rise to many frustrations. Post-lockdown, job and income uncertainties have increased dramatically with 2.2 million job losses, of which two-thirds belong to women, and 20% of all those employed having to take a drop in income. Coupled with the heightened stress of income insecurity, the alcohol restrictions coupled with general cabin fever has resulted in many women being subjected to violence from the men in their lives. The country therefore saw a surge in sexual and gender-based violence cases. Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that at least 2,230 gender-based violence cases were reported during the first week of the national lockdown increasing to 120 000 during the first three weeks of the lockdown, prompting President Ramaphosa to refer to gender-based violence (GBV) as ‘South Africa’s second pandemic.’
Although the government has since put various initiatives in place, such as 24/7 emergency call centers, women’s access to help remains limited by the lockdown regulations and socio-economic side-effect. With domestic violence shelters reaching their capacity and female clinics becoming more and more inaccessible, it is apparent that there is an urgent need for increased GBV support in the country.
Many believe that the world will enter a new normal once this pandemic ebbs. However, if this just involves stricter hygiene and personal space, more online activities, and less travel; but does not enact further measures to protect the country’s mothers, wives, daughters, and lovers; and does not put women at the forefront of leadership, then we will waste yet another opportunity for a better, smarter, safer, and more nurturing world.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planet’s resources and ecosystems.
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