New ECWG Policy Brief: Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Challenges, Engagement, and Opportunities
We, at the ECWG, have published a brief that aims to examine how women’s groups may be affected by—and may help mitigate the effects of—COVID-19 in India, Nigeria, and Uganda to identify potential opportunities and challenges, while keeping in mind contextual differences across and within countries. We conducted a rapid review of published evidence on groups’ responses to shocks, including evidence from health shocks and natural disasters. Accordingly, we identified potential mechanisms through which women’s groups may be affected by COVID-19. We then combined evidence about these mechanisms with descriptive statistics on female populations and women’s groups in India, Nigeria, and Uganda. In addition, we summarized emerging, largely anecdotal evidence from news stories about the role of women’s groups in mitigating the consequences of the pandemic.
We conclude the brief with some insights on contextual factors to consider and evidence gaps to address when designing women’s group programming and research in the time of COVID-19. Based on these insights, we summarize a research agenda that we aim to implement as the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups (ECWG). This research agenda will focus on how COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns may influence the functioning of women’s groups.
Read the full brief here.
Recent research on women’s groups
Community mobilisation to prevent violence against women and girls in eastern India through participatory learning and action with women’s groups facilitated by accredited social health activists: a before-and-after pilot study
Almost one in three married Indian women have ever experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence from husbands in their lifetime. This paper investigates the preliminary effects of community mobilisation through participatory learning and action groups facilitated by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), coupled with access to counselling, to prevent violence against women and girls in Jharkhand, eastern India.
Women’s Economic Empowerment and Political Accountability in Mali
This working paper focuses on the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and forms of political engagement and accountability. It draws from the findings of a larger report, commissioned by Oxfam America, to study the potential impacts of their Saving for Change (SfC) microfinance programme for rural Malian women. Through qualitative and ethnographic methods focused primarily at the household level, the research provides insights into perceptions of the impacts of women’s economic growth and empowerment. The research shows some indications that SfC membership establishes the necessary conditions for women’s as-yet-unrealised future political accountability. SfC membership allows women to achieve collectively what would be either economically or socially unfeasible as individuals. Most importantly, this has resulted in women’s collective land ownership, in defiance of established gender norms. Over time, SfC creates precisely the sort of platform that might enable women’s groups toward political activism and advocacy: autonomous cells that have established mechanisms for effective information dissemination, recognised social capital within rural communities, and practice in collective problem-solving, self-organisation, and adaptability.
Women and fisheries co-management: Limits to participation on Lake Victoria
Despite women making up about half of the global fisheries workforce, it is believed that women are much less involved in community-based fisheries management than men. There is, however, limited evidence available on the extent and nature of their involvement. This paper responds to the gap by asking how representation of women is working in fisheries co-management, what the effects of their representation and participation are and by identifying constraints on their effective participation. Lake Victoria, East Africa, is an example of a fisheries co-management system with a quota set for the minimum inclusion of women in community-based structures. Research undertaken in the three countries bordering the lake, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, found that participation of women in fisheries co-management committees has generally been accepted at the landing site level. The participation of women allows different networks to be represented and reached and examples were given of advocacy and initiatives to strengthen women’s livelihoods through representation in co-management committees. However, although the quota system was often complied with, and support for women’s participation expressed, the effective participation of women is limited by prevailing gendered norms and relations.
Pandemics and Violence Against Women and Children
Based on existing published and grey literature, this paper documents nine main (direct and indirect) pathways linking pandemics and VAW/C, through effects of (on): (1) economic insecurity and poverty-related stress, (2) quarantines and social isolation, (3) disaster and conflict-related unrest and instability, (4) exposure to exploitative relationships due to changing demographics, (5) reduced health service availability and access to first responders, (6) inability of women to temporarily escape abusive partners, (7) virus-specific sources of violence, (8) exposure to violence and coercion in response efforts, and (9) violence perpetrated against health care workers. Based on these mechanisms, we suggest eight policy and program responses for action by governments, civil society, international and community-based organizations. Finally, as research linking pandemics directly to diverse forms of VAW/C is scarce, we lay out a research agenda comprising three main streams, to better (1) understand the magnitude of the problem, (2) elucidate mechanisms and linkages with other social and economic factors and (3) inform intervention and response options