This year’s theme for the International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19”. On this occasion, we have asked CGIAR centers and programs to describe how their research is supporting rural women during times of crises. This post, by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is one in series of responses.
by Emily Myers, Muzna Alvi and Agnes Quisumbing
“We do not want charity, we just need support so that we can stand up on our feet again.”—SEWA group member, India.
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested virtually everyone in some way—but especially the strength and resilience of women in the world’s rural areas. To mark the 2020 International Day of Rural Women (Oct. 15), here we explore some of the burdens the pandemic has imposed on rural women and potential ways to lighten them.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines resilience as “the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.” Numerous studies show that women and men experience shocks differently and have different capabilities in responding to them. For instance, evidence from Uganda indicates that a rise in food prices negatively affected assets held by women or jointly. Women generally have limited access to financial services and information, and lower levels of mobility and literacy compared to men, which constrains their ability to rebuild after a shock.
In this respect, COVID-19 is no different from other disasters.
In many countries, measures instituted to stop the spread of the pandemic have likely created disproportionate burdens on women. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends staying up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information, yet rural women typically have lower levels of literacy and less access to communication technologies than men. In telephone interviews with members of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Gujarat, we found that women’s mobile phones were one of the first expenses to be cut from household budgets in the pandemic. Further, women’s loss of access to mobile phones may exacerbate the existing gendered digital divide, which may have ramifications for women’s resilience throughout the duration of the pandemic and beyond.