Study: West African Women Facing COVID19

While the number of cases of the COVID-19 global pandemic is still on the rise in West Africa, the impacts of the crisis are already felt by West Africa’s populations. Just like the rest of the world, the population in West Africa is experiencing a COVID-induced economic crisis, which will exacerbate already existing inequalities and deepen the poverty situation in the region. Seven West African organizations, WILDAF, ROPPA, RBM, WANEP, REPSFECO, APESS and ROALJEF-Mali, supported by Oxfam and CARE, have decided to highlight the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on women across sectors in West Africa: farmers, traders, women in pastoralist communities, in cooperatives, women living in urban and rural areas. Because women often have low-salary and precarious jobs, usually in the informal sector, and because they are the primary caregivers of their communities, they find themselves at the front line of the crisis, which reinforces preexisting gender inequalities and threatens, in some aspects, achievements made over the last decades for gender equality. West African civil society organizations wanted to highlight the following seven areas impacting specifically women which were worsened by (or sometimes resulted of) the COVID-19 crisis, amongst which:

i. The loss of their financial incomes;
ii. The limitation of their access to basic services, including healthcare and education;
iii. The increase in their vulnerabilities, including gender-based violence;
iv. The increase in food insecurity, which already is and will specifically impact women;
v. Their weak representation and participation in the decision-making spaces about the management of the crisis;
vi. Their limited access to information about the crisis;
vii. And the impact of existing social norms on exacerbating these inequalities, even though the current crisis can become an opportunity to change these norms.

The global pandemic is also occurring in a context of humanitarian crises for many states in the region.
Women and children make-up most of the displaced population in West Africa and were, before the crisis, already in a highly vulnerable state. This crisis only reinforces their vulnerabilities and the hope that their situation will improve is vanishing more and more every day. But far from giving up, West African women are resourceful and come up with solutions on a daily basis for the survival of their families and communities.  They now need support from their governments, and more than ever, their voices need to be heard. They must take part in the discussions and management of the health and social crisis, to make sure their realities are taken into account and to ensure they contribute to and participate in the development of a fairer world.