CGIAR Gender

Gender Implications for EAS during COVID-19

by Rebecca Witinok-Huber

The social impacts of COVID-19 have important implications to food security and, like many other social and environmental calamities, are not gender or spatially neutral. In many regions across the world, deep-rooted gender norms that devalue women’s unpaid domestic labor burdens also marginalize the health, nutrition, and decision-making power of women and girls. In 2017, FAO reported that women account for nearly 60% of all people living in hunger, highlighting the potential to address both food security and poverty alleviation by addressing gender inequalities. Extension and advisory services (EAS) is a vehicle for addressing food security and poverty alleviation, and FAO highlights the importance of gender to that equation.

Reports indicate that food security and health risks for women and children are increased during crises because women occupy nearly 70% of the healthcare workforce. Women’s roles in healthcare increase their work burdens and risks to contract and transfer COVID-19. The United Nations Population Fund suggests that crises also hinder the ability of women to access critical sexual and reproductive health services as well as support systems for domestic-based violence; this is especially true for women refugees.

While research on the gender dimensions of emergencies remains limited, the effects are inevitably compounded by place-based social norms as well as individual or household access to resources and information––in addition to a person’s agency to use them. Women that are racial minorities, disabled, and/or in low-income groups will face additional intersectional challenges. In times of crisis, these already marginalized groups of women and children face increases in malnutrition and food insecurity.

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