Special Report: How women bear economic burden of COVID-19

As the world continues to recount the impact of COVID-19, there is little attention been paid specifically to how the virus is affecting women making them bear the economic burden of the pandemic, which has contributed hugely to gender inequality and pushing women into extreme poverty.

In interviews conducted by MAWA Foundation across communities, some women are recounting how the COVID-19 pandemic is adversely affecting their livelihood, income, children’s education, health, social interaction and family.

Some women in the Obinagu Nike community of Enugu state, who spoke to MAWA Foundation officials, recounted how the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected their income and businesses, pushing them into extreme poverty and hunger.

Narrating how COVID-19 has affected her, Miss. Ezinne Joy who spoke to MAWA Foundation at the Eke Obinagu Nike, a popular market in the community, said before the pandemic, she was contributing N2k every day into OSUSU “a daily contribution” that market women undertake and get their money at the end of the month.

She, however, said as soon as the lockdown began, her business became badly affected leading to the collapse of the business. She disclosed that apart from her inability to pay the daily contribution, she has since pulled her four children out of school because there is no money to pay their fees while feeding has become difficult for her family.

Another woman, Mrs. Anichukwu who sells cooking utensils at the Eke Obinagu Nike market, says since the COVID-19 pandemic started up till this moment, she has experienced difficulty in her businesses, she pointed out that her customers have since stopped patronizing her and that has made life more difficult for her and the family.

“Apart from the collapse of my business, I have been facing domestic violence, my husband has turned against my children and me as a result of poverty and predicament we are going through since lockdown began,” Anichukwu said.

Mrs. Chidiebere Ifeanyi, who spoke to MAWA Foundation at her salon shop at the Agbani area of Enugu State, disclosed that her husband was sacked by a construction company during the lockdown. And, since the sack, she has been the one providing for the family, taking care of their feeding, and paying three of their children school fees.

Ifeanyi, however, added that before the pandemic she had a booming shop at the Ogbete main market in Enugu where she sells second-hand clothes, but the business has since collapsed since the COVID-19 began.

“Before the COVID-19, I had a booming shop in Ogbete market where I sell second clothes popularly known as Orika, but since the pandemic began, our customers said the Orika clothes are infected by COVID-19 and stopped patronizing us, and that made the business collapse,” Ifeanyi told MAWA.

Ada who spoke to MAWA Foundation at her Odenigbo residence in the Nsukka area of Enugu state recounted how her husband divorced and threw her away with two kids and left for Lagos three months after he was sacked by his employer as a result of COVID-19 lockdown.

“Three months after my husband was sacked by his employer during the COVID-19 lockdown, he divorced and abandoned me together with our two kids and left for Lagos, up till this moment, I don’t know his whereabouts,” Ada told MAWA.

Mrs. Ginika Abugu, who sells foodstuffs in the Ogbete market, told MAWA officials that she is aware of many women who are going through a huge predicament and are into depression as a result of COVID-19 consequence. She added that many women apart from going through poverty are battling domestic violence and divorce as a result of the huge poverty the pandemic has thrown into families which they cannot manage.

COVID-19 affected my business very badly especially during the lockdown and has continued after the lockdown says Mrs. Jacinta Mammah, who sells perishable food items in the Eke Obinagu Nike market, Mammah explained that she has lost all her income and is into deep poverty while struggling to keep her family.

She pointed out that many women in the market have had a huge setback in their businesses as a result of the COVID-19. She, however, added that despite the huge economic crisis that has affected the local economy as a result of the COVID-19, there were no palliatives or intervention programmes from the government to support business owners who have suffered a huge loss.

Many of the women, who spoke to MAWA Foundation in Enugu, appealed to the federal and state governments to assist in any way possible, pointing out that the losses that they have recorded as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is so huge and requires government intervention to be addressed.

Away from Enugu, having interviewed good numbers of women in communities across Nasarawa state, and Abuja, MAWA Foundation found that many women are struggling with the COVID-19 impact, many of them experiencing increasing food poverty, job loss, homelessness, domestic violence, divorce, children unable to access education, mental health issues, high crime rate, and child prostitution.

Just like in Enugu, many women in Nasarawa state and Abuja communities are battling with the COVID-19 impacts that are pushing them into an unbearable predicament with little or no assistance from the government.

And even as the COVID-19 impact continues to hit the women adversely, they do not have a platform to tell their stories, while the government seems not to have deep knowledge about how COVID-19 is impacting women and their livelihood.

For instance, in Kabayi, Masaka, Keffi, and Uke communities of Nasarawa state, some of the women who spoke to MAWA Foundation continue to give different accounts of how COVID-19 is adversely impacting their lives, particularly in the area of their economy, children education, social interaction, marriages, health, and homes.

Unfortunately, as the Nigerian state and development analysts are having narratives on the impact of COVID-19, there is little effort being made to focus and x-ray the impact of COVID-19 on women and show how they are going through predicaments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report is supported by the Open Society Initiatives For West Africa, OSIWA  

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