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Impacts of COVID-19 on Program Participants


Throughout history, global pandemics and disease outbreaks have posed wide-ranging threats to the health and overall well-being of women, girls, and other vulnerable populations. In early 2020, all of the countries where Women for Women International works instituted lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. These actions ranged from curfews to interstate travel restrictions to severe limitations on market activities and operation of most businesses.   

Our country offices had to pause programming as limitations were placed on group activities such as meetings or trainings. During this time, our staff maintained contact with program participants and provided information about the pandemic and health and financial support however possible.

In May and June 2020, our staff conduced learning exercises to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on women we serve. These rapid surveys, predominantly conducted over the phone, included questions on women's health, well-being, and income-generating activities. The results highlight how the health, economic, and social stressors of the pandemic have exacerbated gender injustices facing women caught in the crosshairs of poverty, conflict, and gender inequality. Across all settings, program participants faced: 

  • Decreased or eliminated income-generating activities, 
  • Increased market prices for goods and food,
  • Fear of and increased experiences of food insecurity, and
  • Challenges with diminished social networks and support, due to lockdowns and forced isolation.

Click on resources below to learn about the impacts of COVID-19.

The specific needs and rights of marginalized women affected by conflict must be integral to COVID-19 prevention, response and recovery. In line with our Agenda for Action, Women for Women International is calling for an approach to COVID-19 that:

  • Is nuanced and does not treat ‘women’ as a single, homogenous group;
  • Is coordinated, holistic and puts gender at its core, while ensuring that emergency responses do not distract or divert funding, resources and attention away from the existing challenges that women affected by conflict already face;
  • Actively and meaningfully engages women and women’s rights organizations as experts and partners, both during and beyond this emergency, at all levels of decision-making - from the household and community to the national and international levels;
  • Prioritizes violence prevention and recovery, acknowledging the increased risk of violence that women affected by conflict face (particularly intimate partner violence) during times of crisis; and
  • Recognizes COVID-19 as an economic crisis, as well as a health and humanitarian one, and considers women’s immediate and longer-term economic rights and needs.

Read our briefing, “Unseen, Unheard” that calls on global leaders and policy makers to ensure that women affected by conflict are not, once again, left behind.

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You can support women living at the intersection of gender discrimination, poverty, conflict, and crises like coronavirus.