MoHR prepares policy recommendations to mitigate impact of coronavirus

By Hina Kiyani

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Human Rights Secretary Rabia Javeri Agha said that Ministry of Human Rights prepared policy recommendations to mitigate impact of Covid19 on women. She said the Ministry of Human Rights in collaboration with UN Women and National Commission on the Status of Women (NSCW) recently released a policy brief exploring the “Gendered Impact and Implications of Covid19 in Pakistan.â€
She said that the policy brief delved into the larger political, social and economic impacts of Covid-19 and presented an analysis of the potentially disproportionate impact on women and girls with a focus on 6 key thematic areas including education, health, labour force participation, time use and mobility, financial empowerment and gender-based violence.
The policy brief emphasized upon reducing the impact on girls’ education through ‘tele-school initiatives’ and increased public and private partnerships to develop learning content and increase accessibility of learning materials to children through computers, televisions and smartphones, she said.
The paper provided a comprehensive analysis of the specific vulnerabilities that women and girls face in lieu of the coronavirus as well as broad policy recommendations to mitigate immediate risks and prevent the exacerbation of existing gender gaps.
Prolonged school closures due to Covid-19 are adversely effecting education and could exacerbate gender inequalities in educational attainment. Moreover, it outlined specific measures that could be utilized to encourage girls in rural areas to return to school once the situation normalized, the brief said.
Another important policy recommendation contained in the brief is that of ensuring the continuation of basic and reproductive health services for women. It highlighted the importance of encouraging women to visit hospitals and clinics for pre and postnatal checkups as well as keeping them informed about prevention protocols and the conditions in which they should seek medical help and care in order to avoid complications during delivery.
Women already face many hurdles in accessing healthcare and are also likely to have heightened exposure to the virus as the burden of caring for the ill often falls on them. The Covid-19 response must take the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women into consideration, it further said.
It also highlighted the importance of devising mechanisms for providing regular support to the more vulnerable segments of the labour market and building economic resilience amongst women. Most women in the labour force are part of the informal low wage market, home-based workers, or work for small and medium size enterprises and thus suffer from low income security and a lack of access to safety nets and social protection in times of crisis.
Targeted cash and loan programmes as well as access to financial services is a critical area of intervention to mitigate the risks and impact of Covid19 on women in Pakistan. Such efforts are already underway through the Ehsaas Programme and the PM Covid Relief Fund, the recommendations said.
With regard to strong evidence that suggests that emergency measures instituted to cope with epidemics increases the risk of domestic abuse, the brief recommended that gender-based violence services were integrated in response efforts as essential services. Restriction on mobility warrant adapted solutions to GBV service provision i.e. a shift towards remote and technology-based support.
This policy brief provides evidence on existing multidimensional gender inequalities, identifies specific vulnerabilities of women and girls to COVID-19 transmission and impact, and provides broad policy recommendations to mitigate immediate risks for women and girls and prevent exacerbation of the existing gender gaps, she added.