Gender norms and the coronavirus
There is now emerging a wealth of commentary on the gendered implications of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We know that crises can spur new ways of behaving, sometimes leading to shifts in gender norms and underpinning sustained change towards gender equality. But with the fast spreading coronavirus pandemic many gender inequalities have already been intensified as existing discriminatory and harmful norms continue or worsen in the face of change such as violence against women, which has intensified globally under lockdowns and in the face of economic stress.
Recovery periods after crises can provide an opportunity to ‘do things differently’ and to build more equitable systems and societies. However, there is a risk that progress towards more equitable norms can slip back as the demands of recovery take precedence. Ensuring gender equality advances and preventing backsliding will require understanding the leverage points for changing different inequitable gender norms which will vary by society and issue. Cross-sectoral social and gender impact assessments that identify the strengths and vulnerabilities of different social groups, and real-time norms-monitoring surveys could be key tools.
While the most important supportive policies will vary by context, social protection is emerging world-wide as critically important in cushioning the economic effects of virus containment strategies, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable in society including excluded women, children and people of non-binary genders.
ALIGN is currently analysing what leads to shifts in gender norms both during and after crises to enhance knowledge and innovation among our community, and we will be sharing new resources as they become available.
Highlighted below are resources produced by ALIGN and our partners relating to Covid-19 and gender norms.
If you have any research or graphics you would like to share related to this, please do get in touch with the team or post a comment in the discussion box at the bottom of the page.
7 July 2020
9 May 2022
27 August 2020
12 August 2020
21 July 2020
1 June 2020
This annotated bibliography brings together key resources on crises and gender norms to shed light on the potential outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Published by: ALIGN
Gender and Covid-19 working group
ALIGN is a partner in the gender and Covid-19 working group, a global group of researchers, health practitioners, policy actors, and advocates who share resources and expertise on topics related to gender equity, women’s empowerment, human rights, and Covid-19. The working group includes expertise ranging from the biomedical sciences to the humanities. The group meets online on the third Wednesday of every month to discuss key issues, activities, opportunities, and ideas for collaboration, and key norms relevant content will be highlighted here on the ALIGN Platform.
Visit the Gender Working Group website to find out more.
28 June 2021
Article looks at how misinformation and access issues combined with patriarchal social norms are fuelling the disparity in distribution across most states. Published by: The Guardian
24 November 2020
In what countries are women and girls most exposed to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? How well can countries address these effects? To answer these questions, Data2X has shared a new brief published in partnership with Open Data Watch, entitled Understanding Women’s and Girls’ Vulnerabilities to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Gender Analysis and Data Dashboard of Low and Lower-Middle Income Countries. Published by: Data2X
23 November 2020
This podcast event brings together global experts on gender issues to discuss the urgent need to support women. How can women’s vulnerability be considered in pandemic preparedness and response? And what is the role of the policymaker in re-establishing the path to a more equal society for men and women? Published by: LSE
7 September 2020
The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and Covid-19 is no exception. This publication summarises data, research, and policy work by UN Women’s Policy and Programme Division on the pandemic’s impact on women and girls, including the impact on extreme poverty, employment, health, unpaid care, and violence against women and girls. The publication also brings into focus the paucity of gender data and calls for greater investment and prioritisation of data on the gendered effects of the crisis.
21 July 2020
21 July 2020
Covid-19 has laid bare once again the inequalities of domestic work, from working women struggling with full time jobs, providing three meals a day, supervising home education for their children and turning cleaners at night, to the millions of domestic workers and cleaners laid off across the world, some without means to even feed themselves. Whilst many men are stepping up to domestic work and child supervision, women still bear the brunt of domestic labour and the effects of the covid-19 disturbance.
9 December 2020
This article looks at new research which suggests the increased sharing of childcare and housework during the first UK lockdown was seemingly temporary. Published by: The Guardian
12 July 2020
Emerging public discourses around the Covid-19 crisis have characterised this pandemic as unprecedented and disruptive. This blog asks the question 'how exactly do such global disruptions of unprecedented nature affect men and masculinities?' Published by: Gender and Covid-19
22 July 2020
Article looking at how quibbles over who does the housework during the recent coronavirus lockdown have brought the gender politics of India's homes into the open. Published by: BBC News
29 May 2020
This article explores the warning coming from campaign groups that women across Europe risk being pushed back into traditional roles. Published by: The Guardian
15 April 2020
This article describes the serious plight of India’s domestic workers, laid off with no resources and often little family support, during the Covid-19 lockdown. Published by: News 18 - India
12 April 2020
This article discusses potential post-pandemic positive changes in domestic labour. There are suggestions that gender equity might be one of the winners from this crisis but there are also suggestions of the opposite – that existing inequalities between genders will be reinforced by the privations of the Coronavirus crisis, and women will be the bigger losers from the economic fallout. Published by: The Sydney Morning Herald
In most countries schools have closed as a strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Evidence from previous emergencies indicates that girls, particularly adolescents, are at greater risk of not returning after protracted closures. There are also clear equity implications of some of the most common efforts to maintain schooling access.
7 September 2019
With many schools closed as a result of the pandemic and girls' education being particularly badly affect, this article looks at the long-term affect this is projected to have on rates of child marriage with the UN warning it could lead to 13 million more child brides in the next decade. Published by: The Guardian
27 August 2020
12 June 2020
In this final blog of the "Diaries from the frontline" series, the authors examine how particularly vulnerable population groups are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This blog looks at refugee children in Lebanon, girls in Pakistan faced with school closures and what this will mean for their education and life opportunities, and similarly girls in India losing out on their education. Published in: Centre for Global Development
21 April 2020
This article outlines the constraints rural indigenous children, particularly girls, face in accessing learning through Mexico’s Aprende en la Casa (Learn at Home) programme. Published by: Brookings
8 April 2020
This post summarises the potentially gender-differentiated effects of Covid-19 on young people’s educational opportunities and outcomes. It also flags a survey seeking responses from front-line service providers on the specific risks to girls of school closures. Published by: Centre for Global Development
2 April 2020
This article shows how one of the most commonly adopted and recommended ways of continuing education during periods of school closure is skewed in favour of better off groups, with gender inequalities in some contexts. Published by: UKFIET
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a global pandemic that already affects 35% of women at some point in their lifetime. Evidence shows that women, girls and other vulnerable groups are at increased risk of GBV during public health crises, including sexual violence, abuse and exploitation. Reports already suggest three-fold increases in GBV in the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, which may have different causes, such as increased household economic stress, or lack of access to support during social distancing and lockdowns. Whilst there will be an inevitable rise of domestic violence under lockdown, efforts to address the roots of violence, such as discriminatory gender norms, rather than just the symptoms are now essential.
25 November 2020
To commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this news report reflect on the increase of violence against women driven by Covid-19. By sharing experiences from women in different contexts (Morocco, India, Iraq, Brazil, Spain) it notes that in a majority of countries, measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in women and children being confined at home. Furthermore, the closure of businesses and schools, as well as cultural and athletic activities, have deprived victims already weakened by economic insecurity of ways to escape violence. Published by: France 24
24 November 2020
This blog summarises the findings of current research by the authors on the pathways that link pandemics with violence against women and children. With more evidence based on rigorous data analysis, the authors suggest that COVID-19 and associated policy response measures are driving increases in violence against women and children across contexts including low- and middle-income countries (such as Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Peru, and Uganda) in addition to evidence from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere. Some of these pathways can be explained by norms related to mobility constraints experienced by women and children or by the number of female healthcare workers experiencing violence while at work. The blog also summarises evidence on current research by the authors focused on potential policy responses. Published by: Center for Global Development
29 September 2020
This article explores links between ‘stay-at-home’ policies in Peru and the incidence rate of reported intimate partner violence (IPV) measured through phone calls to the main Peruvian help line. Peru was one of the earliest coronavirus lockdowns in Latin American and the lockdown. Understanding whether policies that seek to control a major pandemic lead to unintended negative consequences for women’s safety is an important policy question. This is even more salient for developing countries, such as Peru, where the slow but consistent reductions in violence over the past ten years could be quickly reversed by the responses to Covid-19. Results show the incidence rate of the calls increased by 48% between April and July 2020. These outcomes show an urgent need to identify policies that help mitigate the unintended effects of stay at home orders to combat Covid-19. Published by: World Development
24 September 2020
This piece notes that prior to the coronavirus outbreak, gender and domestic violence as well as feminicide rates were already on the rise in Mexico, in part due to harmful gender norms that lead to physical, psychosocial, sexual or economic violence. The Covid-19 lockdown has lead to women’s lack of access to their usual support network. However, women’s collectives and civil societies have adapted their fight to the virtual world. Online workshops, reading groups, and seminars are hosted weekly by different organisations to continue the ongoing discussions around violence, sexual harassment, job conditions, gender stereotypes, reproductive rights, and many other issues that affect women in their everyday lives. Despite having to deal with ongoing health, economic, emotional and social adversities, the Mexican feminist collectives are continuing to expand their work. Published by: Oxfam International
1 September 2020
This blog examines the reasons behind several European countries (Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria) wishing to leave the Istanbul Convention (which requires state parties to introduce laws that address GBV) despite the increase in domestic violence reported during Covid-19. In these countries, conservative ruling governments state that they do not seek to erode protections against domestic violence: instead, they have attacked the convention for endangering traditional family structures and gender roles. This reflects the potential success of a broader transnational movement across Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world of what they describe as ‘genderism’ or ‘gender ideology’ , a reaction against new threats to traditional gender roles. However, as these movements have grown in political importance, they are also encountering new forms of resistance: women are pushing back, defying the coronavirus pandemic to voice their discontent. Published by: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
25 August 2020
This article begins by examining the kinds of violence driven by patriarchal behaviours that affect women during Covid-19, such as minimizing or monitoring victims’ communication with friends and family; depriving victims of their basic needs; withholding information about the virus and public health measures; and restricting access to the Internet. The authors propose best practices for social service providers during and after the pandemic and offer recommendations to service providers, shelter workers, and technologists (e.g., designers, developers, project managers who may need to receive help from advocates about the perpetrators’ mindset and the harmful gender norms that drive his behaviour) working to support domestic violence victims. As the pandemic continues to constrain women’s access to informal and formal support, the authors also highlight the media’s role in educating the public about IPV. Published by: Journal of Bioethical Inquiry
It is increasingly recognised that Covid-19 often magnifies existing inequalities, with marginalised groups most at risk of contracting the disease, dying, and most affected by disease control measures. Different aspects of people’s identities and social position (such as gender, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic class or location) intersect and influence their experience of Covid-19. The specifics vary but a common thread is policies and approaches designed without sufficient attention to discriminatory norms and practices, and to issues affecting particular groups. This set of resources explores these impacts, and approaches to mitigate them in more detail.
12 August 2020
14 July 2020
Rising Flame initiated this research study in collaboration with Sightsavers to respond to the urgent needs of women with disabilities in India during the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim of this research is to capture and amplify voices and narratives of women with disabilities and to make strong recommendations to ensure inclusion of women with disabilities in social, legal, policy and systemic responses. Published by: Rising Flame & Sightsavers
13 July 2020
Women with disabilities across Nigeria have lamented their exclusion from intervention programmes by governments meant to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Published by: Sahara Reporters
6 May 2020
News article to accompany the launch of a UN report calling for a disability-inclusive recovery and response to the Covid-19 crisis. The report comes after UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said the crisis was intensifying inequalities experienced by the world’s one billion people with disabilities. Published by: UN News
The effects of Covid-19 on women’s rights, empowerment and wellbeing depends, in part, on the ways in which the norms of currently harmful masculinities adapt and respond to crisis. Harmful behaviours and attitudes already affect women’s wellbeing and any progress on changing harmful masculinities may be stalled during this pandemic. Meanwhile men’s own health and wellbeing is affected by norms of masculinity, with some suggesting that men’s norms of behaviour are influencing their proclivity to contract and die from the coronavirus. The articles and resources here focus on men and masculinities, their health and wellbeing and masculine norms which determine women and girl’s health and wellbeing.
19 November 2020
Some positive changes in gender norms coming out of the pandemic in the UK being reported in this article by the Guardian. Men are spending more time with their children and businesses are seeing economic benefits of flexible working. Published by: The Guardian
14 September 2020
3 June 2020
This podcast discusses how “gender” roles and norms impact general health and the Covid-19 pandemic. The podcast has two guest speakers both of whom are experts on how societal perceptions and stereotypes surrounding “masculinity” influence the health and well-being of men and women. Through Promundo, Dr Barker has done significant amounts of work in Brazil where toxic masculinity has been associated with the early deaths of millions of young men and Dr Burrell recently wrote the article: Coronavirus reveals just how deep macho stereotypes run through society. Published by: seX and whY
7 May 2020
This article outlines some of the ways that masculinities have been changing among some social groups and reinforced among others during the Covid-19 crisis in Uganda. Published by: School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda)
30 April 2020
David Moinina Sengeh, Sierra Leone's education minister, shares a photo of himself with his 10-month-old daughter on his back as he cares for her whilst on a lockdown conference call. The minister chose to share the photo as an example for other men and to challenge gender norms. Published by: The BBC
27 April 2020
The Men Engage Alliance has compiled useful resources on digital activism for equitable, compassionate and non-violent ways of being men during the Covid-19 pandemic. The collection includes materials in English and Spanish from Men Engage Africa, Latin America and South Asia among others. Published by: The Men Engage Alliance
The mental health effects of Covid-19 (including suicide) have featured widely in the news. To date these stories have come mostly from the countries which are currently facing the largest burden of the pandemic (e.g. UK and US) as well as countries that have started emerging from it (e.g. China).
Here we aim to highlight some resources which explore the effects of the pandemic on the intersection of mental health and gender norms. Underlying this is the notion that when norms are discriminatory they may have an amplified effect on the mental health stresses caused by Covid-19. While there have been many valuable resources providing guidance and advise on how to deal with the mental health related stress caused by the pandemic on different population groups (children, adolescents, health workers, older people etc.), there has been less (to date) which directly explores how norms may be effecting mental health issues related to Covid-19, especially in low income countries - contexts where discriminatory gender norms are arguably more pronounced.
Some of this is no doubt cross-cutting and will be picked up in discussions, for instance, around intimate partner violence and health. Nevertheless it is important to highlight here some key resources from a range of different contexts which focus on the mental health effects of Covid-19 and norms.
2 June 2020
This piece highlights the slow pace of including mental health in low and middle income countries's responses to Covid-19 measures with a focus on Ethiopia. It also highlights how access to mental health care is driven by inequalities. Structural factors or social determinants (of which norms are part) are key to understanding both drivers of mental ill-health and access to therapies to support those facing mental ill-health. Published by: Addis Standard
1 June 2020
This article shows how a mental health programme adapted during Covid-19 to support those in need through online/remote/teletherapy methods. In so doing it found that addressing structural factors (e.g. inequalities in access to health education, internet etc.) and basic needs (i.e. social determinants of mental ill-health) was crucial to the success of the programme. Published by: Psychological Trauma Theory Research Practice and Policy
25 May 2020
This piece highlights how human vulnerability increases during crises which can also lead to increases in suicide rates. It notes that in India causes of suicide since the pandemic hit are more linked to starvation and accidents than the pandemic itself. In suggesting ways to prevent suicide, the article highlights how interventions need to be multifaceted both universally (addressing the social determinants of suicide, including preventing domestic violence and creating financial safety nets) and individually (targeting such as through crisis helplines and guidelines for remote assessment of suicide risk). Published by: The Correspondent
24 May 2020
This briefing discusses the mental health effects of financial inequalities in the context of Covid-19. Drawing on evidence from “Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic” research – a UK-wide, long-term study - it concludes Covid-19 is putting a huge strain on people’s mental wellbeing and that the burden of mental distress is borne disproportionately by those with less economic security. In some cases, these are people facing considerable existing challenges, such as mental health problems surviving in a destructive cycle of poverty and mental distress, or those facing structural inequalities due to belonging to an ethnic minority group. Published by: Mental Health Foundation
20 May 2020
This article shows how reduction in social interactions amongst adolescents during Covid-19 can have a detrimental effect on their mental health (which are also lessened, to a certain extent by digital forms of social interaction). The article is important as it highlights how Covid-19 may affect different age groups in different ways and also shows how social determinants of mental health (of which norms are part) are critical to understand drivers of mental ill-health. Published by: PsyArXiv
13 May 2020
This policy brief highlights how widespread mental ill-health is, even when not in pandemic contexts and how it can be driven by a range of factors. The brief calls for urgent attention for specific population groups (including women, adolescents, children, older people, health workers), and a whole society approach including looking at (underlying) drivers of mental ill-health such as violence and poverty. Published by: United Nations
Women make up the majority of the health workforce and face the brunt of many of its social impacts but hold less than a quarter of leadership roles in global health. While some female ministers and leaders are leading aspects of the response, public health leadership lacks gender balance at the highest levels and across key ministries charged with leading the response, reflective of wider gender gaps in women's voice and leadership in policymaking and politics. Covid-19 presents an opportunity to understand and address these gaps, while challenges remain in addressing the norm-based barriers to women in decision-making given the urgency of today's crisis.
1 August 2020
The coronavirus has spotlighted the need for effective leadership in a crisis. Leadership research in applied psychology suggests that women tend to be preferred over men as leaders during uncertain times. This paper contributes to this literature by examining, in the context of Covid-19, whether states with women governors had fewer deaths than states with men governors, and why. The paper tested this research question with publicly available data on Covid-19 deaths in the United States as of May 5, 2020 and found that states with women governors had fewer Covid-19 deaths compared to states with men governors. Governor sex also interacted with early stay-at-home orders; states with women governors who issued these orders early had fewer deaths compared to states with men governors who did the same. To provide insight into psychological mechanisms of this relationship, this paper conducted a qualitative analysis of governor briefings that took place between April 1, 2020 and May 5, 2020. Compared to men, women governors expressed more empathy and confidence in their briefings. Practical implications are discussed. Published by: Journal of Applied Psychology
25 September 2020
Analysis of stories across six countries - UK, US, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and India - found fewer than a fifth of experts quoted on the pandemic were women. Published by: The Guardian
2 September 2020
7 July 2020
26 June 2020
Countries with women in leadership have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men. Unsurprisingly, the media has swelled with stories of their pragmatism, prowess — and humanity. This blog asks if these positive outcomes will influence our collective readiness to elect and promote more women into power in the future. Published by: Harvard Business Review
9 June 2020
The Covid-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting women and girls. This makes it all the more important that their voices are equally included in the decision-making spaces and processes where responses are formed. This report by CARE found that where women do have higher levels of leadership, governments are more likely to be responding to the crisis in a way that supports gender equality. Published by: Care
As well as putting people in particular occupations at risk, Covid-19 is having immense impacts on people’s ability to work and generate livelihoods. Given high levels of gender segregation in many sectors, these effects are often gendered. The articles in this section focus on the effects of Covid-19 on informal sector workers, a group in which women are often over-represented, and on workers in specific sectors.
23 November 2020
Brands tend to portray gender using stereotypical roles in their advertisements. In most ads, men are the primary income earners and women as the primary carers. Marketers say this is audience-driven—that adverts simply reflect consumer attitudes and behaviour. But with the pandemic seeing women and men share caring and breadwinning roles, are brands following the market? Published by: Investing in Women Asia
15 July 2020
Research article looking at why gender equality is good for the economy and society, with the Covid-19 pandemic putting that truth into stark relief and raising critically important choices. Published by: Mckinsey and Company
26 July 2020
This blog looks explores ideas for longer term solutions during the recovery phase of the pandemic. Based on research from India, the blog looks at crisis management that can potentially bolster women’s economic agency. Published by: Gender and Covid-19
1 July 2020
This policy brief highlights the key impacts of the pandemic on women who work in the informal economy in developing countries. It underscores their vulnerability to economic stress, as this demographic often lacks legal and social protections, and analyzes government responses to address the economic fallout. Published by: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security
30 June 2020
This article discusses the International Labour Organisation (ILO)'s latest statement saying the pandemic is a bigger blow to gender-equal employment than it previously feared. Published by: The Guardian
1 June 2020