Highlighting the Role of Women in the COVID-19 Response

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“Liberian women have borne the brunt of every crisis in our nation’s history. These include but are not limited to the protracted Civil War and the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak,” says a joint statement by the Women Leading In Crisis Alliance, Liberian Women Humanitarian Network and the Women on Boards Network Liberia.

“With each, women have served as the first-response team, fighting and innovating at the frontlines to protect and heal our families, communities and country.  Our response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is no different. Liberian women are leading local efforts to build and reactivate community networks that can respond to the spread of COVID-19.

“Our success in that effort – and the Liberian Government’s effectiveness in flattening the curve of infections – depends on the inclusion of Liberian women in response coordination and decision making.”

The group says women make up about 70% of workforce in the health sector and their roles in the communities “position us to identify local trends that can signal the start of an outbreak, improving outbreak awareness, preparedness and response.  Our exclusion from Government’s efforts slows general responsiveness.”

“We, therefore, highlight the following opportunities for Government and development organizations to partner with Liberian women in containing COVID-19:

  1. Intentionally and consistently involve women leaders and groups in national COVID-19 policy spaces;
  2. Revise the National Health Regulations regarding social distancing and quarantine measures to account for the safety of women in situations of Domestic and other forms of Sexual Gender-based Violence as rates and the severity of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence, against women and children will likely surge as tensions rise during this crisis period;
  3. Revise the National Health Regulations on the closing down of small businesses, cross-border restrictions, markets and “street selling” to account for its effect on women’s economic stability as women are the predominant breadwinners and caregivers for Liberia’s households and drivers of Liberia’s economy. We need to develop a framework to facilitate continued economic activity that will involve the use of digital financial services, other technological and logistical facilities available to ensure that public needs continue to be met;
  4. Revise the standard operating procedures (SOP) for the management of Precautionary Observation Centers (POC) to meet women’s physical, cultural, security, and sanitary needs – which are very different from men. The SOP should include the frequent inspection of POCs to ensure strict adherence to these gender-informed procedures;
  5. Strengthen health screening and security at our regional borders. While we commend the recent actions taken at the Roberts International Airport, our regional borders has become the new point entry for COVID-19 as the virus spreads throughout the ECOWAS nations;
  6. Roll out well-coordinated emergency response strategies, (i.e. door-to-door awareness, distribution of hygiene kits, medicine and food to families, etc.) and strengthened efforts to prioritize the needs of people in vulnerable situations including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people living in rural communities, the homeless, people living in poverty, people living in underserved communities, workers that will be out of jobs and immunosuppressed or -compromised individuals.
  7. Work with the Liberian Marketers Association in building partnerships with community leaders to establish community markets and guidelines for their management. This will eliminate the risk of a large number of people gathering and lessen the risk of exposure on public transportation.

The effectiveness of the COVID-19 response absolutely depends on an approach that leverages women’s insight into our health, safety and economic needs, as well as the needs of men, children and our communities at large. It is imperative that women voices be fully incorporated into surveillance, detection,  prevention and recovery mechanisms.

We look forward to working with the Liberian Government and our partners winning the fight against COVID-19.

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