COVID19 AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS WITH DISABILITIES
NUWODU Program Assistants carrying out a mock case on GBV reporting mechanisms with a woman with a disability
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as illness caused by a novel coronavirus now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2; formerly called 2019-nCoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales.
On March 9th COVID 19 is declared a global health crisis by the World Health Organisation. A month into the declaration, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development released a press statement imparting that between 30th March and 28th April 2020, a total of 3,280 cases of Gender Based Violence were reported to the Police.
Strict preventive measures followed that with nation-wide media coverage of the impact of these measures on the safety and security of women and girls such as Gender Based Violence. The exception with this was the lack of experiences and voices of women and girls with disabilities that are victims/survivors of violence.
We acknowledge that domestic and gender-based violence against women and girls is a pre-existing social problem. However, the outbreak of COVID19 has placed women and girls with disabilities in extenuating circumstances.
1A girl with a physical disability shares her experience of COVID19 and its effect on her and her family
COVID19 heightened social stigma against women and girls with disabilities.
The stay at home directive placed women and girls with disabilities in constant contact with their violent partners
Ban on public transport saw to the removal of support systems like peers and family members that would otherwise offer solace and remedial services in cases of violence.
Closure of schools for an indefinite period robbed girls with disabilities the opportunity of protection from sexual predators hence the rise of unwanted and teenage pregnancies in most girls with disabilities. This closure of schools also has a multiple effect. These girls with disabilities shall not be able to return to school at all.
Income insecurity due to closure of markets and the small IGA that men with disabilities were previously engaged in bred frustration and anger that invariably turned into violence against women and girls with disabilities as the men did not have any outlet for this frustration.
Exclusion from mainstream WROs response measures against domestic and gender-based violence during this period exacerbated the situation for women and girls with disabilities.
They were unable to access the hotlines and apps in place because of their lack of access to ICT technologies and devices like phones, data bundles, network etc.
COVID19 fatigue has encouraged suicide, depression, and anxiety in all of us yet we have had the support of technology and social media to maintain social connectivity. Most women and girls with disabilities have not been so lucky because they lack the ICT devices, digital literacy, and skills to take advantage of technology for psychosocial support. This has doubly affected survivors of violence who have not only had to endure violence for a prolonged period but are without access to the necessary psychosocial support to alleviate such traumatic events.
NUWODU’s COVID19 RESPONSE
Members of Ingarakinaisio group in Asamuk- after receiving support from NUWODU to boost their VSLA activities
NUWODU’s partners recognised the importance of supporting women and girls with disabilities in response to the global pandemic and,
Responded to and prepared for neglected or under-funded needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic
Assisted women and girls with disabilities that have not been previously identified or covered by existing support from partners and government in areas of Arua and Gulu.
To work as far as possible to mitigate further spread or impact of COVID-19 by implementing early action and anticipatory activities such as Immediate food distribution and income support.
The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion, and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. Now more than ever, disability inclusion is essential to observation of human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security for women and girls with disabilities.