Conversations on COVID-19 7th Webinar: Gender Dimensions of COVID-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020

Gender Dimensions of COVID-19 Pandemic 

The seventh webinar was held on Friday 01/05/2020 at 12:00 pm GMT/1PM Irish Time.


Irish Global Health Network, ESTHER Alliance, Women in Global Health Ireland and Women for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria have collaborated to publish a gender summary brief to mark a new country chapter of the Women in Global Health Movement in Ireland.

Download Brief

The brief is centred on the topics highlighted during the Conversations on COVID-19 7th Webinar: Gender Dimensions of COVID-19 Pandemic which was co-hosted with Women in Global Health Ireland as part of its inaugural launch event.  


Chitra Nagarajan. A journalist, writer and activist involved in feminist, anti-racist, anti-fundamentalist and queer movements, Nigeria   

View her contribution here

  • The pandemic overlays pre-existing inequalities and has exacerbated issues of access to healthcare. In healthcare, women have difficulty accessing services because of gender norms. Distribution of family planning supplies has not happened due to movement restrictions. Implications on unsafe abortions are also unknown, but we know that rapes and abortions increase in times of crisis. Violence against women and girls had doubled with respect to phonecalls received within 36 hours in Lagos state.
  • GBV services have not been classed as essential services by government, so there isn’t freedom for responders to move and meet the needs of women. Overarchingly the government needs to take gender seriously. We need more women involved on the presidential taskforce and state committees on Covid. A clear strategy on response and prevention of violence against women and girls is needed along with a gendered economic analysis of economic impacts so that policies are reflected in government mitigation measures – including in the recognition of women’s unpaid care work.


Sisonke Msimang is a South African writer whose work is focused on race, gender ad democracy. COVID-19 is a feminist issue with women being the hardest hit, even if there is evidence that they are not biologically the hardest hit. View her contribution here

  • Covid is a feminist issue, it’s a question of power, and in times of crisis, women are the hardest hit. Even if this is not the case biologically, it is true in terms of social impact. There hasn’t been enough reporting on the gender dynamic of the pandemic. There is a gap between true cases and detected cases. Looking at death registries, the with last years death rate is showing us the difference and the scale of the pandemic. 
  • Increased numbers of calls are being received to services from women suffering violence. Lockdown is exacerbating coercive control for women. The question for all of us is to consider how we are all going through the same experience of being human around the world. Some of us are pushing ahead for rapid globalisation and others are taking pause and asking if we can use this as an opportunity to give people a just income, where the state has a role to play in offering support. Social and environmental justice norms are being questioned and this pandemic is offering us a great opportunity to address those norms.

Sophie Dilmitis, Women4GlobalFund (W4GF), Coordinator

View her contribution here

  • Covid has brought into focus the inequities and vulnerabilities for women. Now we are seeing communities affected by HIV and TB and Malaria being much worse affected. With regard to access to treatment and testing, instruments used to test for TB are being taken for Covid and leaving gaps, which is problematic given TB is such a challenge. Issues around connectivity are paramount too. The digital divide is leaving community advocates behind. We have to advocate for meaningful participation for women working from home.
  • National legal frameworks don’t highlight recourse for women who may be abused by men, or even police. Covid travel restrictions are have devastating impact on accessing reproductive health services and abortions. It has been estimated by Mary Stokes international that 80 percent reduction in service delivery for three months and minimal services for the rest of the year will affect 9.5 million people who will miss out on contraceptives. If normal delivery resumes after three months, then the figure will drop to 4 million people affected.  We need countries to have gender security awareness.
  • Lessons we can apply: our community activism has been the backbone of AIDS response. No other health movement has moved as quickly as HIV although COVID might take that over. If I compare the response to Covid and HIV, a lot of what people went through, the huge fear, the conspiracy theories, the death, the uncertainty, the misinformation. We’ve been there and we understand how to be at the table and advocate for what we need. We know how to track the money and what meaningful engagement means. We have an opportunity to provide a new health system that provides more equity.


Sarah Hillware, Deputy Director at Women in Global Health.  

View her contribution here

  • To make sure responses are integrated we need to challenge power and privilege in global health. We do this through institutional change. Pandemics like this have shown us that when we have more women in leadership, then the needs of vulnerable communities are better represented. We can’t unlink saving lives from gender, when people are saying that we can deal with the gender implications later. Women make up 70% of the healthforce but only represent a small fraction in leadership roles. We have launched five asks, policy actions for a gender response in the global community. 


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