• Mayo Adetujoye

What Impact Has The Pandemic Had On Women's Rights In Developing Countries: Part 2



Legal

The discrimination in property rights is often overlooked, yet women face legal barriers to property rights in nearly 40% of countries worldwide (World Bank, 2020). Women rely on their male counterparts for access to property, and with the pandemic causing casualties worldwide, this has led to problems with inheritance. In Kenya, stories have been reported of widows being forced out of their homes during the pandemic, leaving them homeless, as their male relatives have taken over their homes. There are few laws protecting women and even the ones that do are ‘ostensibly enshrined.’ (Atlantic Fellows, 2020)


A vicious cycle is created as legal barriers oppose women owning land which means they cannot achieve a higher economic status, but without the finances they cannot own a property. This would explain why there is an overrepresentation of women in extreme poverty, as property is essential to the economic and physical security of women in developing countries. The pandemic means women will be disproportionately affected by poverty as there is an increasing number of women being left homeless because the laws do not protect women.


‘The ownership of property can also make women more powerful in family decisions,’ (Sen, 2000) as home ownership enhances a woman’s stance within her household which can lead to an improved perception of women. However, women own less than 20% of the world’s land (World Economic Forum, 2017) and the pandemic will continue to lower this.


Women are underrepresented in politics and humanitarian decision making, with 119 countries having never had a female leader (UN Women, 2021), this means women’s needs will inevitably be overlooked in times of crisis. Therefore, the pandemic will hinder women’s rights because systems will fail to protect its female citizens as people in the positions of authority do not get a female perspective.


Financial

Unpaid care work refers to, ‘all unpaid services provided within a household for its members, including care of persons, housework and voluntary community work.’ (OECD, 2014) Unpaid care is essential to the well-being and welfare of nations, especially in the times of a global health crisis. However, this burden falls largely on women due to deep-rooted prevailing gender stereotypes. Women spend three times as many hours doing unpaid care and domestic work than men (UN, 2020).This is especially apparent in rural areas, as access to health services are out of reach. With more women doing time-consuming unpaid work, their opportunity to have decent paying jobs is limited, which means women will continue to be underrepresented in the labour force and this will widen the already huge financial disparities between men and women.


School closures mean young girls will be expected to look after ill-family members, and even post-pandemic, it will increase the pressure on girls to drop out of school permanently. This can create long-term issues as women will be further behind in their education compared to men. Education retains the power to increase earning potentials, but without education, women will fall behind in literacy and thus their income, leaving a permanent scar on the economic status of women.


Women are more likely to occupy jobs that are in the hardest hit sectors. At the height of the pandemic, women were 44% more likely to lose their jobs than their male counterparts. (World Bank, 2021) This is because women are also overrepresented in lower paying jobs, such as retail, and the lockdown has put these sectors on pause. This could lead to an increase in unemployment for women, which could exacerbate the gender pay gap in developing countries.


The pandemic has increased the demand for women in informal sectors which do not benefit women financially and is rewinding the progress formerly made on women being educated. As for the women that have the opportunity for paid work, the pandemic is now eroding away their jobs. From this, it is transparent that the pandemic will take away women’s right ‘to earn an equal wage,’ meaning the pandemic will negatively impact women’s financial rights.