CARE International and UN Women says pandemic poses extreme risk to women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women and girls across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are facing a terrifying mix of increased domestic violence and care burden, as well as a lower access to income and jobs, and potential social unrest as a result of the coronavirus outbreaks, finds a new CARE International and UN Women joint report.

Date: Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Rapid Gender Analysis CARE UN WOMEN
Photo: UN Women / Ryan Brown

The Latin America and the Caribbean region has the highest levels of income inequality in the world, with wide gaps in living standards across countries, regions, sectors, and socioeconomic spheres. When coupled with the pervasive gender inequality that persists, the response to Covid-19 becomes immeasurably more complicated, a report launched today on a virtual webinar hosted by CARE International and UN Women says.

Disease outbreaks affect people of different genders differently. During these crises, under-resourced social protection and health systems are generally unable to keep up with the pace needed. This exacerbates pre-existing gender and intersectional inequalities, as it disproportionately impacts those who are already struggling to access resources – especially women, girls, and gender-diverse people from at-risk or marginalized groups. Recognizing these different ways are fundamental to understanding the full impacts of health emergencies and to creating effective, appropriate, equitable responses.

As the situation worsens and the economic recovery remains lengthy and uncertain, the possibility of social unrest and an increase in crime is likely to contribute to physical and sexual violence against women.

"The COVID-19 crisis is exposing and will deepen historical socioeconomic inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean," said Tatiana Bertolucci, Director for CARE in the region "Indigenous, afro-descendant and displaced women and girls are most vulnerable because they are employed in already precarious sectors, they are more likely to lose their access to any income and will be less protected by social welfare systems, and let's not forget that women are also most often caretakers of the sick, elderly and kids. Because so many depend on them, women's disempowerment often has a domino effect within families and communities."

Women's unpaid care work and the unequal division of labor in households is being further exacerbated as COVID-19 response measures maintain schools closed along with public spaces, and care services. Women in LAC already spend almost three times as much time on unpaid care work compared to men. As public resources are stretched to their limits as a result of the emergency, States' ability to continue providing care related to the welfare system will further diminish when it is most needed, meaning women's caregiving role and hours spent will continue to grow. Furthermore, as the availability of jobs remains limited throughout the economic recovery, women will find greater challenges in accessing labor markets in terms of the burden of hours related to care work.

Furthermore, as reported by both organizations, lockdowns have resulted in an alarming increase in gender-based violence, including femicide, early pregnancy, and other forms of sexual assault and abuse. While some countries have set up mechanisms to prevent and address domestic violence, others where the situation for women and girls was already dire before the pandemic continue to deteriorate.

"It is important to remember that violence against women and girls was already the world's most widespread human rights violation before the pandemic," said María Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for UN Women. "In Latin America and the Caribbean, it effects on average 1 in 3 women throughout their lives. The root causes of this violence are gender inequality and discrimination, as well as the harmful social norms and the high levels of tolerance and impunity in our societies. The Rapid Gender Analysis offers concrete, practical recommendations for gender equality in humanitarian programming."

Given this critical context in the region, this report calls for ensuring gender equality and women's empowerment into COVID-19 response as central to provide an effective and comprehensive approach.

Key recommendations include:
  • Systematically collect sex and age disaggregated data in all areas relevant for the health, social, economic, and political areas that could be impacted by COVID-19 to guarantee the response includes women and girls and prevents gender gaps from being widened;
  • Partner with women's and LGBTIQ+'s organizations and support their participation in the design and plan of the response and recovery.
  • Enable access to healthcare services for women and girls and the most at-risk groups. Eliminate the cost of COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and care where those costs create barriers. Find ways to reduce hidden costs to women, such as increased caregiving burdens.
  • Recognize and address the unequal division of care work, and unpaid domestic labor, as an essential element of emergency public health and economic response. Provide appropriate socioeconomic supports accordingly. Acknowledge the situation of groups dedicated to caring as domestic workers and their precarious situation;
  • Include GBV services, access to information and communications technology (ICT), and SRH services, as cornerstones of all response and recovery activities. Ensure that women's access to ICT is considered an essential, life-saving service, both during response and throughout recovery.

 


CARE International and UN Women's report "Rapid Gender Analysis - COVID-19 Emergency in LAC" is an examination of the impact on women, girls, and LGBTI+ people as a result of the sanitary crisis related to COVID 19. It analyses the main concern resulting from the spread of the virus but also to the response and recovery means put in place and currently being implemented by governments in the region. The report also highlights main recommendations to governments, humanitarian actors, and civil society to prevent major steps back in the situation of Latin America and Caribbean women and girls. The report incorporates experts on the various topics covered in it, including the voices of women's organizations and social movement leaders working with both CARE and UN Women, attempting to capture the urgency of the needs and analysis of the greater risks for women and girls.

CARE works around the globe in 95 countries to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice. CARE puts women and girls in the center because poverty cannot be overcome until all people have equal rights and opportunities. Contact for further queries: Vanessa.parra[at]care.org

UN Women is the United Nations organization dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. As a global advocate for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress in improving women's lives and responding to the needs of women around the world. Contact for further queries: g.valdesmorales[at]unwomen.org