A Multi-Country Research Initiative: on Covid-19, Gender and Human Rights

Launched in June 2020, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s multi-programme initiative on Covid- 19 and gender equality supported research in six countries. The aim: to create fourteen unique independent research projects surrounding the gendered implications on human rights in the time of Covid-19.

Beginning in June 2020, RWI launched a multi-programme initiative on Covid-19 and gender equality. This multi-country research reflects on the intersection between gender and human rights, and addresses how pre-existing structural inequalities, power asymmetries, and cultural and social norms within various societies shape how marginalized groups are impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Gender was the key dynamic examined within the research.

Sebnem Kenis, Senior Policy Advisor for gender mainstreaming and results-based management at the RWI took the lead on the project. In order to better understand the human rights implications of Covid-19 through the lens of gender, researchers from RWI’s partner universities in six  countries – Belarus, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Zimbabwe – designed and implemented fourteen independent research projects, each with their own unique findings and recommendations.

Throughout the research and development process, RWI supported the research teams with grants, mentoring support, capacity-building webinars, and editorial support. The diverse range of researchers presented wellrounded perspectives on the gendered implications of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns. As a result of this initiative, RWI’s researchers have produced 14 papers. The findings and recommendations will be shared with decision-makers in dialogues to inform the planning and the implementation of effective Covid-19 recovery policies as well as the preparations for similar future crises.

The findings and recommendations stemming from this initiative can be found in two webinars – the first in 2020, and the second in 2021.

Webinar recording (1)

Recording  (2)

Over 200 individuals – including academics, public officials, corporates, representatives of national, regional and international NGOs, students, and staff from multilateral organizations such as United Nations and the Council of Europe – attended the webinars.

The key findings from the initiative spanned across multiple areas of gender rights research:

• Researchers in China examined the support mechanisms available to domestic violence
survivors in the time of Covid-19, finding that stay-at-home measures impacted access to
resources and justice for survivors.
• Research in Zimbabwe investigated how Covid-19 has impeded women’s and LGBTI+s ’access to such services, including contraceptives, safe abortion, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and other sexual and reproductive services and information.
• Research in China, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia reveals reduced incomes caused by loss of jobs and livelihood for women and LGBTI+s in these contexts, especially for those working within the informal economy.
• Research in Cambodia examined the gendered impacts of the pandemic on higher education and found that the pandemic had a disproportionately adverse impact especially on female students coming from rural areas.
• A study in China points out a rise of unpaid care burdens on women during Covid-19 due to the closure of schools and day-care facilities.
• Research in Ethiopia studied the impact of Covid-19 on the rights of female children in Ethiopia, examining how the pandemic has made the predators of sexual abuse during lockdown increasingly become figures closer to home, such as close family members. The research also evaluated the weak legal and institutional framework that has long existed in this area, offering recommendations in response to the findings.




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