Thursday, August 5, 2021

Women and youth; how the pandemic has wrought mayhem in already vulnerable groups

The covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on already vulnerable groups of our society.

These people are women and the youth.

Long before the pandemic hit, these groups were already shouldering the burdens of society.

They were largely poor and discriminated against in many areas.

The story of women disempowerment, especially in Africa is well documented.

At birth many women face a life of deprivation, abuse and discrimination.

This is in contrast to their male counterparts.

The situation has been made more glaring by the pandemic.

The bad position women and youth find themselves has been exacerbated – especially financially.

The young adults, especially those who left college not so long ago now find themselves exposed.

Many of them have had to move back into their parents’ homes because as a result of lockdowns, their financial security has been badly eroded.

As a result of Covid-19, they have effectively started their adulthood in debts.

This is because many of them lost jobs when Covid-19 struck.

On account of the principle of last in first out, it is the young who have found themselves easy to get rid of at the work place.

Many women and youth today face economic uncertainty and financial ruin.

This is mainly because the informal sector has been the hardest hit.

And by far a majority of people working in the financial sector are women.

Since lockdown started, it is the informal sector that has gotten the brunt of such closures.

When recovery plans were announced, there was little in them to cater for the informal sector.

To make matters worse, the informal sector thrives well once the economy has picked.

And with a prolonged economy, it will be a long time before the informal sector takes off.

Covid-19 has reversed and eroded many o0f the gains that women and the youth and made.

A lot of progress had made to empower women.

Getting them into the banked members of society had been progressing well.

Since the pandemic struck financial exclusion has once reared its ugly head.

This is primarily because many of the women bank accounts have since closed down chiefly on account of dormancy and lack of activity.

Societal ills that include abuse and inequality were on the decline pre-covid-19.

They are now back with a bang.

A culture of saving and investment that was taking root among our young people, coupled with what they fondly called “hustle” referring to a culture of risk taking are all put on ice.

It is not yet clear if it is all a temporary pause that will once again emerge once the pandemic is under control.

But the reversals have no doubt come at immense cost to the societal progress that we had started to make.

Botswana Government is making strides in alleviating some of the ills and erosions our society has seen as a result of Covid-19.

Gender Based Violence is on the rise, and to its credit government is coming up with interventions.

It is the youth and women who are at the receiving end when it comes to Gender Based Violence.

Covid-19, many have pointed out on numerous accounts has been an unmitigated tragedy. But it can also be an opportunity.

How these sections of our society who have so clearly been affected are able to turn the disaster into an opportunity remains unclear.

But doing so will require societal help.

We can only help women if as a nation we first believe that their exclusion leaves us not only weaker but poorer as well.

We can only help the youth if as society we first accept that their empowerment is essentially the empowerment of the nation.

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