A REMARK PRESENTED BY HER EXCELLENCY, MRS. BETTY ANYANWU-AKEREDOLU (FIRST LADY OF ONDO STATE) AT AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE HOSTED BY ADEYEMI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION ON THE 5TH OF MAY, 2021
Theme: Gender Equality And Sustainable Development In Africa Under Covid-19 Era
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is a viral infection that causes respiratory illness. Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has directly and indirectly affected each and every sphere of life across the world. Till date it has affected more than 3.9million people all over the world.
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond the health crisis. The entire global environment has responded to the pandemic in one way or the other.
However, COVID-19 has shown that it is gender sensitive and remains an arrested development to humanity.
The impact of crisis has always been heavy on women and girls and COVID-19 was no exception.
While more men died from COVID-19, a lot more women were forced into socio-economic disasters. Before the era of COVID-19, Women in Africa made up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population which played a vital role in the economy and contributed about 67% to Nigeria’s GDP.
The existence of a means of livelihood helped increase food security in their respective homes and served as an escape from prospective abusers at home. Young girls in schools were less likely to be forced into marriage and abused sexually: the school provided safe spaces for girls and a lot more women had access to sexual and reproductive health services.
However, during the COVID-19 crisis, there was: Increased cases of sexual and gender based violence all over Nigeria with Lagos and Ogun state taking the lead, Loss of means of livelihood which significantly affected women’s income, Low food security, Severe increase in maternal mental health issues, such as clinically relevant anxiety and depression, Access to sexual and reproductive health services was disrupted, Increased occurrence of unplanned pregnancie.
This crisis also increased discouragement among girls and young women, clouded their hopes of success with heightened pressure from their parents to drop out of school, enter the labor market or get married.
In Response to some of these challenges faced by the Ondo women during the pandemic, The Office of the First Lady of Ondo state introduced some gender friendly projects and programmes to aid cushion the impact of the pandemic on women and girls in the state, some of these projects include: The establishment of the SGBV Emergency Response Center with toll free numbers.
The launch of the Ondo state SGBV yellow card initiative. SGBV sensitization: training school counselors to efficiently handle SGBV cases. The Ondo widows palliative distribution outreach where over twenty-three thousand widows across the eighteen local governments in the state were reached out to.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to death, rape, sexual exploitation and turned some Nigerian women into widows. It has also weakened the economic power of women and has further proven that the Nigeria socio-political system is unfavourable to the welfare and protection of women and girls. Critically, the insecurity of women as found by several studies reveals that there are numerous cases of human rights violation, loss of livelihood, jobs, murder, humiliation and gender disparities are recurrent threat to women under the COVID-19 era in Nigeria.
With these ugly impacts of the pandemic on women and girls, I expect that more gender friendly policies and programmes will be put in place to help alleviate the struggles of the women in Nigeria as well as measure towards gender mainstreaming and equality.