While COVID-19 has and continues to have devastating impacts on every sphere of life across communities around the globe, women and girls have been particularly affected. Indeed, in Africa, women and girls have largely borne the brunt of the pandemic, as the virus has exacerbated already-existing gender inequalities, laying bare serious fault lines in safety, physical and mental health, education, domestic responsibilities, and employment opportunities. Though death rates from COVID-19 in Africa have been surprisingly low, the virus has massively disrupted women’s lives as decades of progress towards women’s rights and gender equality in Africa has begun to unravel. At the same time, African women and girls play critical roles in responding to COVID-19, including as frontline health care workers, caregivers at home and at work, and as mobilizers in their communities. Given both their vulnerability and frontline roles during the pandemic, women must be at the center of the COVID-19 recovery and reconstruction.

Because of prevailing social norms, African women and girls traditionally shoulder the majority of family care responsibilities, including child care, domestic chores, and caring for the weak, the sick, and the frail in their families and society more broadly. Indeed, even before the pandemic, globally, women and girls carried out incredible burdens for their families and societies—shouldering an estimated three times more the amount of unpaid care and domestic work than men. In Kenya specifically, women spend an average of 11.1 hours per day on any care work compared to men’s 2.9 hours. There was already a need to unburden women from unpaid domestic work by changing social and gender norms around the homecare economy as well as implementing flexible working hours and better pay for women. Broader provisions of social services would lift women’s care burdens and give them more time for paid jobs and leisure.

Read the full article about putting women and girls at the center of COVID-19 recovery by Damaris Seleina Parsitau at Brookings.