The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women across all spheres, Shaheen Anam, executive director at Manusher Jonno Foundation, has said.
Making the opening statement at a webinar on Wednesday, she said women are uniquely affected in any crisis and it was no different during the ongoing pandemic.
Brac James P Grant School of Public Health, Share-Net Bangladesh, and Manusher Jonno Foundation organised the webinar titled "Life in the time of coronavirus: A gendered perspective" to discuss the unique toll coronavirus had taken on women in the country.
The webinar was attended by officials of various local and international non-governmental organisations and lawmaker Aroma Dutta, the first civil society organisation activist to be elected in parliament.
At the event, the findings of a study titled "Life in the time of coronavirus: A gendered perspective" were unveiled. The study showed evidence of increased domestic violence, early marriage, and aggravated masculine traits among other things.
"This study is an authentic piece of work which is of great value," said Aroma. She highly praised the "holistic perspective" and "the gender lens" used by the researchers.
"We are living in a time of dichotomy as to whether to save our lives or livelihoods," the lawmaker said.
"In this crippling time of the coronavirus, a study like this proves to be essential in determining the effects the pandemic has had on an already vulnerable female population."
As part of the study, Brac James P Grant School of Public Health and Manusher Jonno Foundation carried out surveys in 10 different ecological regions, including Rangamati, Bandarban, Netrokona, Kurigram, Patuakhali Barguna, Nilphamari, Dhaka city, and Savar.
Data was collected from 42 females and 28 males between October and November 2020.
"Along with the study report - which highlighted sexual reproductive health rights among other things - two other reports on domestic violence against women and masculinity were presented at the event. "
"We need to stop looking at sexual reproductive health rights as an add-on. It needs to be addressed as a standalone issue," commented Shahana Siddiqui, one of the researchers and adjunct faculty at Brac James P Grant School of Public Health.
The report on masculinity was presented by Subas Biswas, senior research fellow at the school. It explored the male perspective in relation to the pandemic.
One of the several interesting findings of it was the number of men who thought they would not be affected by the virus because "they are real men."
The report on domestic violence against women was presented by Arpita Das, programme director, Manusher Jono Foundation which was based on a telephone survey of a number of girls and women during the lockdown. "They felt hopeful when they had someone calling interested in their wellbeing," the researcher added.
The researchers and the special guests – Shaheen Anam, GBV Cluster Coordinator at the United Nations Population Fund Rumana Khan, and Alokito Shishu founder Mithun Das Kabbo – unanimously agreed that changes could be brought in effectively at the policy level.