A Girls’ Rights Crisis- our response
Period equality is about enabling women and girls and other people with periods to have power and control over their bodies and lives. We have all lost control of our lives to some extent during the current crisis, but vulnerable women and girls are losing control of their bodies and their futures. The coronavirus crisis is rapidly evolving into a girls’ rights crisis as their fundamental dignity and right to safety is jeopardised in a multitude of ways.
Around the world women and girls are facing lockdown with their abusers. They are at risk of escalating physical, sexual and emotional violence at a time when help is harder to access than ever before. They face a disproportionate burden of care and exposure to infection as they struggle to fulfil their care giving responsibilities in their family and community. Many are wondering how they will feed their children in the weeks ahead. Control of their fertility is in jeopardy as access to contraception and safe abortion are deprioritised. Even basic gender specific needs like access to menstrual products are overlooked, adding indignity to an already overwhelming situation.
The need to take drastic measures to fight coronavirus is not a choice, but we can choose to protect vulnerable women and girls’ basic rights as we do so.
We cannot sit this crisis out whilst they suffer preventable abuse and suffering.
During this crisis, people and organisations who care about period equality and women’s rights need to focus on ensuring provision, providing protection and restoring power to the most vulnerable women, girls and marginalised people in our community.
We must ensure that vulnerable women and girls have access to basic necessities, including gender specific needs like menstrual products, contraception and safe abortion. We must support caregivers, particularly young, single mothers facing lockdown alone to feed their families.
We must enable women and girls facing abuse to seek and find refuge from their abusers. No one should have to spend lock down with their abuser. We must ensure that those informally caring for the sick in the community are protected from the risk of infection.
We must empower women and girls to share their experiences so that the unintended gendered impacts of lockdown can be identified and the rights of women and girls advocated for. Now is the time to come together as a community to fight coronavirus and to fight for the rights of the most vulnerable women and girls.
The choices we make now will define us for years to come. Let’s make the rights choices. Together.
Across our communities in the UK and East Africa Irise will be working in partnership with government, partners and other stakeholders towards these goals for the duration of the crisis.