Promoting Intersectional COVID-19 Response Efforts in International Development
Research to date clearly suggests that women and men around the world are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. While women are losing their jobs at higher rates than men, experiencing
increased care burdens and domestic violence, and struggling to maintain their businesses, evidence also suggests disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on men’s health. Further, the
overlay of other identities including race, disability, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, geography, migration status and other pre-existing structural inequalities and
conditions intensifies the impact of COVID-19. This resource compendium highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed varying vulnerabilities of women and men in different groups based on
diverse identities and why an intersectional feminist approach to pandemic response efforts within international development is critical. There have been many resources developed and shared
throughout 2020 – from policy briefs to podcasts to news articles – that urge for an intersectionality-driven approach to the COVID-19 response.
First, COVID-19 has affected men and women differently. More men are dying than women from COVID-19 around the world; especially men who are older, have disabilities or other
chronic health conditions, or are BIPOC are at a higher risk. Both biological and social factors are seemingly causing such disparity. At the same time the pandemic has had greater negative impacts on women’s physical and mental health and wellbeing due to gender disparities and
inequalities, such as increased workload, both paid and unpaid, women’s exposure to the virus as frontline workers, and increased risk of gender-based violence due to lockdown measures
and economic stress.
Second, beyond a health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is an economic crisis. Women are concentrated in the economic sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. However, an
intersectional approach to the data analysis reveals that the sectors with the most extreme losses are those where non-white women are concentrated. Thus, the economic impacts of the pandemic
are being felt differently even amongst women themselves. The emotional and psychological impact of the economic crisis has also put men at higher risks of suicide, given patriarchal norms
which often limit or strongly enforce “provider” or “bread-winner” expectations (or roles).
Third, data that is disaggregated by sex but also by race, ethnicity, age, disabilities, sexual orientation, and more is critical to not only identifying issues but enacting
data-driven solutions. Such data can reveal disparities between particular groups that were impossible to identify with just sex-disaggregated data. That we have inadequate data
on COVID-19 is not new and joint efforts are now being made by
various UN agencies, civil society and governments to identify specific areas where data is missing.
Finally, it is critical that response efforts include people of various races, with disabilities, and LGTBQIA+ populations in the design and implementation of
assistance. Initial efforts to respond to the pandemic failed because these populations were not considered and there was no one ‘in the room’ to advocate for them.
Diverse leadership in response efforts is key to successfully reaching those who are disproportionately impacted.
While efforts by UN Women, USAID, and other donors are under way to support women more broadly during the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that response programs will need to utilize
feminist intersectional data and approaches – highlighted by several key takeaways below – to inform improved and more tailored assistance. While an intersectional approach to all
developmental issues is important, it is ever more critical during COVID-19 because the use of such an approach could save lives.