Since the emergence of COVID-19 in Myanmar, women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations have played a leading role in supporting the national response led by the Government. A rapid, community-level support has been provided both at the State and Region levels by women’s organizations in enhancing public health education, supporting quarantine measures, mobilizing volunteers, providing in-kind food and financial transfers. The leadership of women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations in the response significantly contribute to protecting the most vulnerable from the worst socio-economic effects in Myanmar.
The recently released Overcoming as One: COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) of the Myanmar Government has not considered evidence-based vulnerabilities and marginalization in the implementation of CERP. Nevertheless, the plan presents an opportunity to be continuously adapted to achieve gender-transformative impact. This cannot be done without ensuring that both women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations fully participate in the response and women and girls, as one of the marginalized and vulnerable groups in society, benefit from the CERP implementation.
Myanmar statistics provide evidence that COVID-19 has a gendered impact on women and men. More than 90 per cent of women who work in the informal sector are more susceptible to economic downturn . Nearly 90 per cent of women in garment sector have been already impacted by closure of export chains. Additionally, 96 per cent of nurses and 77 per cent of paramedics in the Myanmar healthcare are women, who are at the forefront of the response2. Limited access to and de-prioritization of healthcare services, stigma and discrimination, and a decrease in access to work have also been exacerbated for persons with intersectional identities during this crisis. Furthermore, crises inevitably, leads to an increase in gender-based violence (GBV), as well as an increased lack of access to professional care and support services for survivors. Without a doubt, the current impact of the pandemic in Myanmar threatens to significantly push back gains and efforts made in gender equality and women’s empowerment.
We, women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations, therefore, call on the Government of Myanmar and Partners in Development to:
Ensure that CERP implementation responds to the gendered and intersectional impact of COVID-19 and targets women and girls, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalized including in conflict areas and internal displacements, and that actions do not reinforce gender gaps that put the lives, livelihoods, and the well-being of half of Myanmar population at risk and aggravate gender inequalities further
Advance women’s leadership to drive a more inclusive and faster recovery using the existing resources and human capital in country and ensuring a 30 per cent proportion of representation of women in leadership in CERP related decisionmaking bodies, coordination structures and mechanisms at all levels, fulfilling the national commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment3
Build partnerships with women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations and ensure their operations through flexible and adaptive resource allocation recognizing that women are on the frontline of the response
Institute social audits by local women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations to monitor the CERP implementation on the ground and how well it is responding to women’s needs and priorities.
More specifically, we call on the Government of and Partners in Development to integrate gender responsive strategies and targets into the CERP implementation by:
Advancing tangible and accountable investments into social protection, healthcare benefits, immediate income and food support based on the extent to which women and girls will benefit from these interventions – both as service-providers and as end-users
Targeting female farmers and women-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as hard-hit sectors and occupations where women are overrepresented, such as garment workers, women migrants and their home communities, with provision of cash transfers, loan programs and technical assistance
Allocating additional resources to address violence against women and girls in COVID-19 national response and significantly strengthen the legal and essential services system to support survivors of domestic or gender-based violence
Signed by the following women’s rights and women-led civil society organizations: