Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Half of Ugandans (51%) believe that physical, emotional and sexual violence got worse in their communities during the coronavirus lockdown, a survey issued by Twaweza Uganda to commemorate the international Women’s day has revealed.
The survey was conducted by Sauti za Wananchi in November, 2020 to establish the social impact of COVID-19 on women. More than 1500 respondents across the country participated in the survey. The survey was able to establish that due to the prolonged lockdown and closure of schools, more Ugandans especially women and girls experienced more sexual violence.
However, between 48% -58% of the respondents noted that things have remained pretty much the same in their homes in respect to gender violence, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. Another 22% to 31% said things got better.
Five out of ten respondents also noted that the closure of schools had the same impact on both girls and boys compared to 39% educated and urban residents who say the effect is different for boys and girls. Two out of three citizens from the educated respondents, urban female residents and the wealthier said girlswere the worst affected by school closures.
Their main reason according to the survey is teenage pregnancy which is rising by 45%, followed by the early marriages at 15%. Marie Nanyanzi from Sauti za Wananchi, the program officer at Twaweza Uganda says that it is not surprising that many citizens say that the situation worsened during the pandemic. Nanyanzi says that economic consequences had a knock-on effect on family relations as many failed to value each other in the absence of financial power.
Nanyanzi says that it would be a mistake to ignore the social impact of the extended lockdowns, school closure and other movement restrictions as data clearly indicates that women and girls are deeply affected in multiple ways now and in future.
Violet Alinda, the advocacy manager at Twaweza says that as the country celebrates International Women’s Day this year, it’s important to reflect on the inconsistent burden endured by women during the global coronavirus crisis.
‘’Women bear the impact of the burden of caring for the sick as they are the primary caregivers in communities. They are also being deeply and negatively affected by the restrictions and measures used to curb the spread of the virus which is admitted across that women are not safe in their homes during times of crisis especially when they are unable to leave home, for school, work or otherwise they are at much greater risk of abuse and violence,’’Alinda said.
Veronica Eragu Bichetero, the Kaberamaido County Member of Parliament says that despite women being reported to be the most affected when it comes to any form of violence during the lockdown, it should not be forgotten that only focusing on women and girls will again bring about the affirmative action issue for men in future. Eragu said that the economic issue needs more attention since it has greatly affected men during the lockdown.
She says that as legislators, they still have a challenge of working on gender-related laws that can help to answer some of the persistent problems on gender. She however notes that such laws should be handled just like any other laws to avoid resistance from their male counterparts.
Meanwhile, the survey suggests that the government and the wider society would be wise to pay attention to the social consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdown measures. It highlights the need for economic support that targets those who need it in order to reduce on the strain on families.
It also called for a response to rise in teenage pregnancy be backed by data from health providers.