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Myanmar’s population is facing a double crisis from the COVID-19 and the military takeover of February 2021, which is steadily wearing out their social and economic resilience.
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Bhagya Krishanthi, 43, is the owner and manager of a boarding house and a small corner grocery store in Malabe, a suburb a few kilometres outside of the commercial capital of Colombo. She built up her store from humble beginnings, first selling simple items such as coconuts, oil and eggs, then expanding into a larger variety of goods when more capital and profits trickled in.
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Teiyo Amos was struggling to make ends meet from her income as a market vendor after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Her husband was back from Australia where he had been working in mining, leaving her as the family breadwinner. But her profits from selling betel nut and potatoes in the main market of Goroka, Papua New Guinea, were not sustaining her family.
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Before the pandemic, Pariyar was able to get food and other essentials on loan from shops in her village and clear the bills when she received her wages, but things became increasingly difficult for Pariyar and her family under lockdown. “Without daily wages, my debts kept adding up. The shops were reluctant to give me more food without money, so my family started cutting down on food,” shares Pariyar.
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When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Sri Lanka, women faced some of its most severe and unforeseen impacts. The pandemic exposed deep, structural inequalities that exist within our social and economic systems. A total of 61 percent of the country’s working women are in informal employment, where livelihoods were hit faster and harder by the pandemic and measures to control it.
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More than 41 per cent of women lost their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nepal. Responding to their practical needs, UN Women with support from the Government of Finland has been ensuring their access to food and nutrition through women-managed community kitchens across Nepal. Pushpa Sunar is one of the 123 people employed in the community kitchens, which is providing an income to the women working there and helping to alleviate the care burden among other women, as well as build trust and cohesion in the communities.
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The second wave of COVID-19 in India brought unprecedented losses. The poorest and the most marginalized, including women and girls, face more risks without the means to absorb the economic shocks and mitigate the health crisis. They are caring for their families, sustaining livelihoods and leading efforts to fight the pandemic, amidst the threat of a third wave.UN Women and health sector experts answer some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and how it impacts women and girls in India.
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In recent months, South Asia has had some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases globally, driven predominantly by the second wave of the pandemic in India and Nepal. Since January 2020, India has reported over 30 million cases and more than 400,000 fatalities, figures that are likely substantially underestimated. Cases in Nepal rapidly spiked in mid-April 2021, with over 635,000 confirmed cases by the end of June and at least 9,000 deaths. Both countries have seen critical gaps in life-saving vaccines, treatment and tests, and in skilled human resources.
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From supplying food and hygiene products, to training health workers and nurses in COVID-safe protocols, providing personal protective equipment to front-line responders, protecting women’s livelihoods and sustaining shelter and essential services for survivors of violence, UN Women is channeling its funds, programmes and expertise to support women’s organizations on the ground. We are also working with national and state governments in India and Nepal to promote gender-responsive policies that support women’s recovery from the crisis.
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Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have not stopped Francisca Lofranco Tagalog, a community leader from Cebu City in the central Philippines, from helping women and children who experience domestic violence. “We have faced some new difficulties in our operations,” says Tagalog, 60, who leads the organization Bantay Banay (Family Watch). “But it did not stop us from doing the things we normally do for the community.”
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Community-based justice plays a pivotal role in resolving disputes, especially in many developing countries where an estimated 80 percent of cases are resolved through grass-roots justice mechanisms. For women these mechanisms are often the first step on the pathway to justice seeking.
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A total of 315 vulnerable women-headed households affected by the 2020 flooding and COVID-19 in four communes of Quang Tri province, central Viet Nam, received cash grants of VND 4 million (173 USD) each from UN Women to rebuild their livelihoods.
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Building back better from COVID-19 needs investment in feminist, grass-roots leadership. Yet, direct funding to women’s organizations accounts for less than one per cent of the global official development assistance provided for gender equality. In six stories, learn about the critical support that grass-roots women leaders and their organizations bring to their communities.
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Laxmi Badi, a Dalit woman leader from Nepal is at the forefront of the struggle for equal rights, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In South Asia, persons from Dalit community are at the bottom of the archaic “caste system” – a social stratification, whereby individuals face multiple generations of discrimination and segregation based on their descent.
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In both countries of origin and destination, the social and economic development potential of labour migration – including contributions to gender equality –is tremendous. Yet, even before COVID-19, violence against women migrant workers was one of the most pervasive human rights violations that negatively influenced the migration experience of many women, preventing them from reaching their full potential.
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Roshani Kumari Chaudhary is an inspiration to many in her village. For someone who made ends meet by working as a farmer and cooking meals for passersby sitting on a mud coated floor of a bamboo hut, she has certainly come a long way. She is now a community leader who commands respect and influence in her Municipality. She proudly shares, “I am now the Chairperson of a Jaldevi Women Farmer Group, a social activist and a member of the health community."
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Bobita Rani Bormon, a single mother with two daughters lives in Savar, an area about 25 kilometers away from Dhaka city. She has been working for a readymade garment (RMG) factory, as a senior operator for six months and before that I worked with another RMG factory for two years.
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The people of the 10 Peace Villages in Indonesia’s Java island were already living vulnerable lives in a region of long-standing risks of intolerance that undermine social cohesion. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and exacerbated the risks. Fortunately, women in the villages have joined together to lend a helping hand to their neighbours. This women’s activism has risen naturally from the Peace Villages system developed in 2017 by UN Women and the Indonesian non-governmental organization Wahid Foundation. Villages across Java declared themselves Peace Villages after committing to prevent violence and promote tolerance and giving women leading roles in the effort.
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Across the globe, many migrants have been waiting to reunite with their families in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions to prevent its spread.
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In 2017, 35-year-old Anita Kumari Chaudhary from Rautahat, Nepal, – attended a vocational training program on tailoring. Little did she know that the course would have been so valuable as she would be sewing masks in 2020 to keep her community safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.