BY LORRAINE MUROMO
Women and child rights advocates have said women and children living with disabilities have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They made the claims during a virtual webinar by the Africa Judges & Jurists Forum, a pan-African network of judges and jurists committed to promoting justice and development in Africa.
The webinar, which ran under the theme: Addressing the Gendered Impact of COVID-19 on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, highlighted the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented on the economic, social and cultural rights of women.
Human rights activist and lawyer Kudakwashe Chitsike said, according to a survey by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Zimbabwe, about 91,1% of women were exposed to psychological and physical abuse by spouses due to the lack of money and food claiming the COVID-19-induced lockdown period.
“From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the control measures put in place resulted in market closures which necessitated job losses and women with disabilities who were unable to access economic safety nets were the most impacted,” Chitsike said.
“Their inability to work and access financial safety nets exacerbated their financial stress as it increased gender-based violence.”
Most women and disabled children rely on vending, which has been greatly affected by repeated COVID-19 lockdowns.
Government last year identified about three million vulnerable people to benefit from an $18 million social grant, but only 300 000 people allegedly identified through their links to the ruling Zanu PF party benefited.
“Children with disabilities suffered a greater risk of sexual abuse and for women in general, there was additional workload as some had to stop going to work to take care of the children,” Chitsike added.
“Sadc governments should provide fiscal managerial assistance and adequate financial cushioning which will provide economic empowerment for women and the more vulnerable groups.”
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa women’s rights programmes manager Lucinda Vanden Heaver said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated inequalities.