The gender conundrum: Even as we celebrate Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, gender disparities are as stark as ever

While globally there’s much talk of women emancipation and empowerment, the pandemic and its aftereffects have continued to impact the lives of women in urban cities.

March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. While globally there’s much talk of women emancipation and empowerment, the pandemic and its aftereffects have continued to impact the lives of women in urban cities.

On one hand, women were constantly counting on family members and peers for a happy work-life balance, but a certain section of society lacked access to good health and nutrition. The GOQii Women’s Health Matters report 2022 states that women with menstrual problems have increased in 2021, to an average of 38.8% as against an average of 32.8% of female health issues in 2020. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at 31.2% has increased by 9% from 2020.

There is a need for constant dialogue and interaction to improve access to many essential services, especially for adolescent girls in urban slums deprived of basic health and education services. The pandemic forced them to stay indoors; many were deprived of basic health and education services or access to services like phone for online classes, and instead asked to do household chores. Over 68% of adolescent girls faced challenges in accessing health and nutrition services; 67% did not attend online classes during lockdowns; 56% did not get time to indulge in outdoor play and recreation during the lockdown.

The research-led study titled ‘The world of India’s girls—Wings 2022’ by NGO Save the Children, India, highlights the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on girls, with a focus on populations in urban slums. The study unfolds the repercussions on girls’ access to health, education and opportunities for play and recreation with a focus on the changes that have taken place in the overall context of their insecurities. It also includes understanding the coping mechanisms adopted by the families to deal with the increased health and nutritional insecurities, the abrupt decline in learning opportunities and the pressure on early marriages.

“India@100 cannot achieve its full potential unless we secure 100% of its children today. The report brings to the fore the risks our nation runs into by not securing children. Specifically, the fact that India @75 has almost half its children not able to equitably secure themselves with their basic rights,” says Sudarshan Suchi, CEO, Save the Children, who conducted the study in four states—Delhi, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Telangana.

Also, professionally, a full-time WFH setup was more challenging for women, to deal with the extra burden of managing household chores and fulfilling professional responsibilities as most women saw uncertainty in careers or chose flexible working models in the last two years. But a contrasting study by International Workplace Group (IWG), a flexible office space provider, states how work-life balance made women choose their career paths and allowed them to be more productive. Over half (56%) agreed that hybrid working was positive for career progression. In fact, 49% said they would consider leaving their job if forced to work from the office five days a week, demonstrating the integral role hybrid working is now playing in people’s daily lives. Women stated how hybrid working improved their mental health, and greater distribution in household and childcare duties between them and their partner. However, with the financial benefits of hybrid working that helps save both time and money from daily commutes to office, women were able to save more for house deposits due to flexible work hours.

“The pandemic has proved people can be just as productive when they’re splitting their time between home and the office and it’s highlighted the huge opportunity to improve working life. For women, the hybrid model represents a crucial opportunity to address existing inequalities at work and at home and has unprecedented potential to support women’s

well being, family lives and career aspirations. For employers, there is a vast opportunity to attract more female talent and add tremendous value to their businesses,” says Fatima Koning, group chief commercial officer at IWG.

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