For decades now, people around the world have to the realization of the importance of gender equality and have assessed the benefits of active participation of women in various fields of life, be it running a family and managing a household or being a part of a multinational corporation.
Presently, women make up to 40% of the global workforce, 43% of the global agricultural labor force, and more than half the percentage of students studying in universities across the globe. As much progress as women have made in the past century, there still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in every aspect. Even today, in my parts of the world there, exists a wide gap leading to major gender disparities. As per a report by the World Bank,
“Females are more likely to die, number to as many as 3.9 million every year, in many low- and middle-income countries. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-sixth die in early childhood, and over one-third die in their reproductive years.”
Despite the progress made in terms of promoting women education, the number of girls enrolling in primary and secondary schools is still extremely low, especially in African and South Asian nations. Women also lack economic prospects, have no voice in domestic decision, are subjected to violence in many forms and have limited to negligible to access to opportunities to make significant progress in working markets.
The progress made in the past decades has taken a U-turn as the world struggles to fight with the pandemic of the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 disease. With all the institutions instrumental in women empowerment and progress, the priorities of the world in the face of the disease have changed significantly. Most of the national and international agencies are now engaged in finding solution to looming problems like declining economy, increasing poverty, endangered food security alongside the primary problem of the all – finding a vaccine to the disease that has infected over 6 million across the globe.
Women across the globe have become externalities in the current situation and are the worst affected, especially in the poorest communities. The loss of job, source of living and increased subjugation to violence in confinement due to lockdown are among the few things that has left millions of women helpless and dependent for survival on their male counterparts.
Girl children and adolescent girls are facing a possible loss of education due to the lack of digital device which will leave them vulnerable to early marriage and exploitative relationships. UNWomen reports that over 743 million girls are out of school and adolescent girls are the most at risk of facing gender-based violations starting with the loss of education.
What people fail to recognize is that by limiting as well as hindering the lives of women and girls as it was before the pandemic, will have a reverse effect at both micro and macro level of economy and domestic engagements. If the world has to rise up from the cascading economy once the pandemic has been subdued, it has to bring into its force women’s support to aid and abet the efforts to revive the economy.
With the help of women and a focus on gender equality, the world can look at an increase in productivity as well as morale to contribute towards developing the world as it was before the disease broke out in the world. To support these efforts at a national level in India, Smile Foundation has continued the work promoting girl education and women welfare during the COVID-19 crisis. Swabhiman officers and community mobilizers are still working on the field to help women in underprivileged communities. The work on the same includes donating dry ration kits to women in underprivileged communities so that they do not need to choose between the needs of their children and families before attending to themselves and addressing their healthcare needs. The Swaobhiman mobilizers have also facilitated four institutional deliveries during the lockdown by helping pregnant women understand the signs of labor and bringing them to the hospital and ensure that these women get the necessary medical attention during childbirth.
Under its scholarship program, Smile did donate to girls android tablets which have helped hundreds of girls in not losing out on their education during the four months of continued lockdown. Smile is also coordinated with its partners who are helping women by employing them for the production of facemasks and other protective gear. By employing gender equality in its workforce at ground level and also continuing the training of adolescent girls and women under its STeP program, Smile will support women by empowering them and helping them join the workforce to lift the declining economy and make it stronger than it was before.