Guest Article: The Effects of COVID-19 on Women and Girls with Disabilities
by The Action Foundation team
In these unprecedented and challenging times, we all have a role to play in supporting our communities to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has presented a range of challenges to the disability community across the world. The prevailing situation has seen us become more deliberate in identifying the challenges faced by and acknowledging the unique vulnerabilities of our interest groups (children, women and girls with disabilities). We have had to come up with thoughtful and innovative solutions to enable our beneficiaries cope with the current reality.
One of the key emerging issues during this period has to do with the reported surge of cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and in particular Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) alongside other safety and security issues for women and girls. This situation in the context of the informal settlements where we work with women and girls with disability has necessitated us to ensure consistent online engagement with them and checking in on their wellbeing. As a result of progressive deliberations on how best to ensure the wellbeing of the mentors and mentees in our Ibuka program during this period, we believe engaging them online will ensure that we are able to hold discussions that engage them in varied topics and build their agency.
We have also sought to cushion our women and girls from the adverse economic effects of COVID-19 through safety nets [called] ‘Basket of Hope’ that provide food, sanitation and critical sanitary supplies in the form of dignity kits. We have issued the dignity kits, consisting of a four monthly supply of sanitary towels, to women and girls in our programs and within the community, as well as to other organizations to issue to women and girls with disabilities in the communities they serve.
Through our newly established partnership with Creative Action Institute, we hope to collaborate in planning for and conducting a mini-workshop to disseminate the findings of our recent situational assessment report on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights for Women and Girls with Disabilities in Kibera. We also are in discussions on hosting radio shows in a local radio station to create awareness around issues of gender based violence and sexual reproductive health and rights for women and girls with disabilities. Through the radio shows, we hope to influence change in perceptions and attitudes in the community that have over time have contributed to steretyping, discrimination and vioence against women and girls with disabilities. We also hope to avail information on access to relvant services and provide referral channels.
For more information about how COVID-19 has impacted women and girls with disabilities in East Africa, check out The Action Foundation's short documentary below.