THE socio-economic condition of the majority of women in outlying districts has, as a survey that two non-governmental organisations conducted in 18 districts in April 26–May 10 shows, worsened because of the COVID-19 outbreak. While most of the households try, as the survey says, to survive on money that women have saved from their income under micro-economic activities, many of the women have been forced to take loans from local money-lenders at high interest rates to meet their basic, daily needs as micro-credit activities run by non-governmental organisations have stopped because of the outbreak of the disease. As women are now not able to carry on with their small initiatives, they are losing whatever capital, business and property that they have made after hard work for a long time and they stand chances to fall into long-term debt problems. The situation altogether, which is likely to largely frustrate the national women’s empowerment plan and harm whatever empowerment that has so far taken place, is worrying, calling out the government on shoring up some issues to help the women, and their family, at risk. The findings of the survey have also brought to the fore some issues that the government should work on in an expeditious manner.
The survey further shows that women in rural areas are deprived of primary health care in the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and are burdened with household work. About 65 per cent of the 7,000 households surveyed have reported domestic violence against women by male members in the family for an absence of patience and intolerance. A situation like this also points to the government’s failure in putting in place a mechanism to stop domestic violence, especially, during the COVID-19 outbreak that has already become a concern the world over. The survey also brings up the issue of drug abuse by male household members and consequent impact on the socio-economic condition of women. The survey notes that the trend of child marriage is likely to increase in the post-COVID-19 period because of an increased drop-out of girls that is believed to be caused by the socio-economic problems that have constrained households in rural areas. All this entails that the government should look into a number of issues and work out ways to stem the socio-economic decline that may prove too costly in the long run if it is not adequately dealt with now. COVID-19 has, therefore, not only stalled the national economy, strained national health care and constrained national education, it has also created issues here and there for the government to attend to.
The government must, in such a situation, wake up to reality, run research and work out plans to effectively attend to all the issues that may constrain society in the post-COVID-19 period. Having COVID-19 mitigation efforts limited to only healthcare issues and some cash and food aid during the outbreak of the disease may not stand the government in a comfortable position once the outbreak is over. The government must now embark on a well-thought-out, long-run journey to overcome the aftermath left by the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak.
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