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Every reputable regional and international organisation has recorded the socioeconomic dislocations the pandemic will have on women. They have expressed concerns the progress women made over the decades in reproductive rights, economic empowerment, and holistic wellness could be erased if governments do nothing to protect the gains and/or ensure enhancement. A February 19, 2021 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) blog written by Laura Giles Álvarez, Country Economist (Barbados) and Jeetendra Khadan, Country Economist (Suriname) the question was posed “Are women worse off after 2020?”
The economists alluded to recognition “the pandemic also has the potential of reinforcing and even worsening pre-existing inequalities within society.” It was noted, “for example, there are accounts of women faring worse with the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, as they generally earn less, save less, and tend to hold more insecure jobs or are more likely to live in poverty than men [as per Year 2000 reports of the United Nations, World Bank, and World Trade Organisation].”
Álvarez and Khadan mentioned “the prevalence of unpaid care work has also increased substantially during the pandemic, as schools have closed, and families are spending more time at home” which is “having a greater impact on women” who are known to “typically take on a greater burden of house tasks related to care.” They warned the socio-economic disparities could lead to “a rise in gender-based violence.”
In the instance of Guyana, the private security business is dominated by female guards, many of whom are single parents. Market and school vending are also female-dominated. These are low paying jobs. It was highlighted “more single-headed female households reported going to bed hungry or eating less healthy than men.” They has also noted an increase in the incidents of domestic violence with Guyana recorded an increase of 14.1 percent. The countries under review were Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Given the relative cultural tolerance for domestic violence in Guyana the numbers could likely be higher.
It was found the female-headed household, more than the other two groups (male-headed and partners), went hungry or had a worse diet. Financial constraints would have played a major role. A proper diet is essential to holistic wellbeing, including preventative care, but often the parent would rather do without to ensure their children get at least the minimal. Being unable to provide could led to mental and other stressors impacting the woman’s health and relation with her children.
A 2020 United Nations (UN) Report, based on data gathered in telephone interviews of Guyanese households between 8-25 September2020, found that 76 % of female-headed households indicated priority assistance was needed for their household. Of the 76 percent, 74 percent needed food and 76 percent needed hygiene products The Government of Guyana is aware of these harsh statistics but has put no social protection policy in place to address these priorities. They know economic deprivation could lead to health issues, domestic abuse, and the gamut of social diseases.
Similarly, the Government is aware of the named blog or the 2000 reports. Guyana is a member of the UN, World Bank, World Trades Organisation and IDB. The policy makers are not ignorant to the fact the impact of the pandemic on men and women have been unequal. Their failure in implementing a policy specific to the female-headed households to provide relief and opportunities may very well be because they don’t care. There is no other reasonable or logical explanation for their policy of inaction.