The current health crisis has shaken the economic and the social frameworks to the ground in all countries of the world, the fallout has however put special pressure on the Arab World. The region has yet to overcome economic instabilities, political corruption, civil wars and humanitarian crisis…
Despite the gaps in data, and despite that the virus is genderless several studies confirm that the crisis would discriminate more strongly against those who were already marginalised, mainly women, especially women and young girls in conflict and war zones.
How is the crisis impacting women in the Arab countries?
–A million job loss: according to the UN, due to COVID-19 impact, the MENA region is expecting a result of 1.7 million job loss, among which 700,000, more than 40% of jobs were held by women.
-A digital revolution without women: almost half of the female population in the region is not connected to the Internet making them excluded from new economic opportunities in the digital.
-Increase of violence against women: on April 2020, Iraqi young woman “Malak Haider Al Zubaidi” was set on fire by her husband who had forbidden her from visiting her parents for eight months. Women have become more exposed to gender-violence as confinement measures have removed their access to support spaces in addition to the absence of laws protecting them from domestic violence.
-Forgotten women in war zones: they would face additional risks, beside lack of financial assistance, healthy environment, displacement, lack of access to education, early marriage, and domestic and sexual violence. They fear the virus would spread in the camps and would be left out without adequate healthcare treatment.
-Women in informal economy: in the region women perform nearly five times as much unpaid care work as men and 61.8% of them operate in the informal sector, they already suffer from lack of job opportunities, income and social security.
–Widespread illiteracy: women are expected to suffer the longer-term impact of the crisis as it changes societies’ structures and priorities. Across the region, widespread illiteracy among women would result in severe discrimination in economy, making women occupying a minority of jobs in both public and private sector.
We have entered the twenty-first century with so many challenges and the Arab world is still dragging behind the dead weight of debating whether a woman has the right to travel without her husband’s permission, perform a certain profession or to drive a car. While the pandemic’s effect on livelihoods will last up to generations, overcoming this crisis should become a national priority, and having women as a part of it, should not fall low on the list of priorities. The region is in dire need to transform the social (individual and collective) imagination, perception and attitudes towards women issues.
It is the last opportunity, It is the last warning for the Arab world!