Womn at the Frontlines: Feminists and WHRDs Leading the COVID- 19 Response
Feminist and womn’s rights groups across Africa are facing the COVID-19 pandemic in intersectional ways. The pandemic, which has challenged the essence of every sphere of human life including health, economy, security, psychological well-being, and social protection, has not spared anyone. Its impacts are exacerbated for womn and girls who are already dealing with varied manifestations of inequalities.
Womn and those at the margins of society, particularly gender non-conforming groups, womn with disabilities and womn living in slums and inaccessible rural areas, are more
susceptible to being infected with the virus. This is because they are least likely to access basic social services, including hygiene kits and sexual and reproductive health services. They are also more likely to experience gender-based violence (GBV) and loss of livelihood due to the lockdown measures that were put in place by national governments.
There is no better time to demonstrate why more womn’s leadership is needed at decision-making tables, in high-level policy conversations and in community-level initiatives in response to the pandemic. The COVID-19 interventions supported by Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-
Many feminist and Womn’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and womn’s rights organisations are involved in raising awareness in local languages, challenging unfavourable public health policies (such as deeming sexual and reproductive health and rights services as ‘non-essential’), addressing gender-based violence in the context of movement restrictions, and demanding equitable distribution of relief materials for groups at the margins
At UAF-Africa, we observe with keen attention the increased attacks on WHRDs in the protracted context of COVID-19, how feminist and WHRDs are challenging State authoritarianism amidst COVID-19 response plans, the increased cases of GBV across the continent due to continuing restrictions, and
failure by governments to put measures in place to address GBV. Additionally, the fund also notes with concern the widespread loss of livelihoods, the need for disability inclusion in addressing COVID-19 challenges, increased police brutality, and the curtailing of freedom of expression and assembly.
At UAF-Africa, we continue to focus our rapid response
grantmaking towards groups who will otherwise not have
resources to address the challenges of COVID-19 in their
everyday lives and communities. The untold stories outlined
in this newsletter are some of the interventions by UAF-
Africa’s grantee partners, who through creative
collaborative efforts support their communities to mitigate
and navigate the varied manifestations of COVID-19.
We recognise the work of African feminist and WHRDs across
the continent and how they are influencing various spaces
to ensure that their voices count in response to this
global pandemic. We hope that their COVID-19 experiences
will strengthen feminist bodies of knowledge and framing of
gender equality policies in emergency response plans and