Women: The Most Worthy and Yet the Most Affected During the Covid-19 Crisis

Despite the lack of women appearing on television screens locally and internationally, women are at the front lines of this pandemic, such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and sanitation workers who clean the hospitals every morning, etc. According to the World Health Organization, although women represent 70% of the struggling medical teams to combat Covid-19, only 25% of them are in leadership positions.

Written by: Nahed Abu Ta’ema

After nearly sixty days of quarantine, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, announced a number of measures to ease the renewal of the state of emergency on Palestinians. This does not entail that there is complete freedom or restraint, as its government slogan has been fortified on the health and economic stability since the beginning of the crisis. Perhaps it takes us to another level of concerns in the coming stage, which is to achieve a human and social balance in harmony with health and the economy.

This balance requires the government to heed the return of the work of the Shari’a courts, while respecting all safety measures in order to contribute to solving outstanding problems, as the pandemic was a justification for indefinitely evading or postponing it indefinitely. For example, some husbands/ex-husbands avoid paying the alimony that the courts appoint to mothers, which is the main income of some families. The activation of the courts, in which a judge will be able to conduct alimony and custody cases, will enable the parents to return to seeing their children through the court hearings, which contributes to the creation of family bonds and peace, along with resolving issues of conflict and other civil cases.

International and local reports indicated that a large portion of women, who are the heads of households and financially support their families, lost their jobs because of the Coronavirus, especially those working in agriculture, as teachers in nurseries and owners of small women-led enterprises. Nearly 60% of them are workers, with lower wages than men, and are under greater risks alongside the increased burden of unpaid childcare and serving the elderly. They deserve, from the government, some special measures and temporary support, not on the level of in-kind packages, but rather what helps them survive this great ordeal.

Instead of looking at the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic related to the increase in poverty and unemployment rates in the Palestinian society, especially among women, the Palestinian Authority made recent decisions, which were later repealed due to the public’s outcry, to increase the salaries of senior officials (i.e. Ministers, General Managers, etc.). It is evident that there is an absence of legislative priorities in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian legislator. This brings us to the importance of highlighting the need of creating priorities for the Palestinian legislator subsequent to passing any laws, especially regarding the Palestinian family, where the law to protect the family from violence has still not been issued. Many women are trapped at home with their abusers, because of the quarantine, which is increasing violence against women; perhaps the existence of a law would prevent violence and provide protection and accountability.

What confirms the importance of this law is also indicated by international and domestic reports on the increase in violence in light of the Coronavirus. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “Violence is not confined to the battlefield. For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes.” He also stated that: “violence increased three times in all of the world after Covid-19.” The results of an opinion poll conducted by Awrad – the Arab World for Research and Development also indicates the expectation of an 40% increase in societal violence and a 35% increase in family violence.

In this context, it is important to commend the decision of the Council of Ministers on the measures to transfer women victims of violence in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision includes receiving a full approval to transfer women and their children to protection centers, after the issuance of Coronavirus examinations and the study of their area of ​​residence and movement as well as their contact with others, in coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development (Women Development Guidelines) and family protection units in the Palestinian Police. It is further relevant to increase the number of officers within family protection units and women development counselors, supporting them with all resources needed to work efficiently with women victims of violence and maintain the speed and quality of the service provided, as well as the respect for the privacy and confidentiality of cases.

Moreover, despite the lack of women appearing on television screens locally and internationally, women are at the front lines of this pandemic, such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and sanitation workers who clean the hospitals every morning, etc. According to the World Health Organization, although women represent 70% of the struggling medical teams to combat Covid-19, only 25% of them are in leadership positions. They play large roles in the homes during quarantine, where they bear all the psychological and physical pressures, and work in the public and private spheres; however, their participation in all the field committees formed to confront the pandemic is weak. This is not far from the approach of the Waqf Ezz Fund, in which women’s representation is very low with only one woman. This led to feminists and social activists demanding the halt of ignoring women’s roles and all efforts to exclude them from public spheres. They also called for the courage to protect the distinguished history of Palestinian women and their experiences, and to not undermine their role. The world has recognized that seven western countries were able to reduce their losses and quickly move towards overcoming the Covid-19 crisis. The common factor among these countries was women’s leadership that undertook extraordinary action in light of the pandemic. This leads to the question: Isn’t it time for women to lead positions in a way that is equal to men?

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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