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Women’s economic empowerment in the face of Covid-19 and displacement: Restoring resilient futures

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London, UK, October 21, 2021 — New research released today by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI shows that COVID-19 has significantly compounded the economic disadvantages displaced women face.

The findings provide an original snapshot of the recent effects of the pandemic, clearly showing that the economic situation for everyone -- both men and women, displaced and in host communities -- across the countries studied has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Across all survey respondents, the impact was greatest in Jordan, with over 97% of respondents noting a negative impact on their economic situation. In Greece it was also significant, with 76% of respondents being negatively impacted and in Nigeria it was over half, at 59%.

Gender magnified these effects, with discriminatory social norms impacting women's economic opportunities and increasing the burden of unpaid care work: women had 47% lower odds of having earned income over the COVID pandemic and also had 45% lower odds of being employed or self-employed compared to men during the time period studied.

The picture was worse still for displaced women. Restrictions on their freedom of movement and access to formal labour markets, as well as practical limitations such as formal ID requirements and non-eligibility for social safety nets, meant they faced greater disadvantages than women in the host community. In Jordan and Nigeria, for example, a higher proportion of displaced women (82.5%) stated that their economic situation had worsened compared to women in the host community (72.6%). Displaced women were also more likely to report having to borrow money to meet expenses, with a third of displaced women in Greece and 67% in Jordan reporting having to do so.

Daphne Jayasinghe, IRC Policy Director, Europe, said: "This new research sheds an early light on the economic shockwaves of the pandemic, which continue to be felt. The findings clearly show that in terms of economic opportunity and wellbeing, it's worse to be a woman, and worse yet to be a displaced woman, in the wake of COVID-19.

"Restoring resilient futures for these women relies on concerted commitments from governments, civil society, donors and the international community to rebuild inclusive economies. That means prioritising the right to safe and decent economic opportunities, financial services, social networks, social protection, redistributed unpaid care and laws supporting refugee inclusion and gender equality.

"The UK in particular has the opportunity to galvanise the pledges made as part of its leadership of the UK G7 and ensure action for women and girls is included in the forthcoming International Development Strategy."

Abigail Hunt, Research Fellow at ODI, said: "This research clearly demonstrates that women affected by crisis and displacement have been hit by a 'triple disadvantage' of COVID-19, displacement and gender discrimination. It also shows that the specific challenges facing women affected by crisis and displacement are rarely a focus of major policy players like the G7. Now is the time to make sure that key policy and financing initiatives are fit for purpose to respond to the needs created by the crisis and reflect women's priorities."

The primary research that informs the findings was conducted with participants of the IRC's Resilient Futures programme in Nigeria, Greece and Jordan. The programme has helped over 3,000 young people since 2017 with business training, mentorship and start-up grants across these countries, plus Germany, Lebanon and Cameroon. Both Resilient Futures and the report are supported by the Citi Foundation.

The IRC and The Citi Foundation today announce the continuation and adaptation of the programme in the face of the challenges detailed in this report. Resilient Futures will have a new focus on building business resiliency in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in these six countries and expand to Mexico. The programme will provide targeted support to build vulnerable young people's skills, grow their networks, provide capital support, and proactively engage with the local community, helping young people affected by crisis and displacement to weather the global economic crisis and emerge more resilient contributors to their local economies and communities.

Nour Jarrar, Citi Country Officer, Jordan, said: "The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women more than men, further widening the gender equity gap as some women take on more unpaid care and domestic chores alongside paid employment. For those in vulnerable situations such as displaced women, this has worsened due to a lack of access to welfare options that could provide vital lifelines of support.

"As we emerge from the pandemic, more investment in economic recovery programmes for displaced women such as Resilient Futures is critical. Part of the Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress initiative, Resilient Futures provides participants with the skills required to build livelihood and successful economic futures.

"We're excited to announce the third edition of this programme, which will incorporate recommendations from this new report from long-standing Citi Foundation partners the IRC and the ODI into the programme design. This will further strengthen Resilient Futures' mission to support displaced youth and young people from host communities to set up and scale business or enter the workforce."

Read the full report here.