The lockdown that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic is especially hard on women with disability.
As a girl of 15, Nidhi Goyal wanted to be a portrait artist. Then she became visually-challenged, and turned to activism. “I was 16,” she says about losing sight to a rare genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa. “It was a struggle and I was slipping into depression until I looked at my own privilege.” She then decided to “do something about it”.
Now 34, the Mumbai-based founder and director of Rising Flame, a non-profit committed to changing the lives of people, especially women and girls with disabilities, finds herself on the UN Women executive director’s civil society advisory group and president of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development.
Before the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) upended the world, women with disabilities were undergoing their own lockdown, invisible and shut out from the rest of the world. Now, the walls are closing in.
“Women with disability have been fighting to get out of their houses as their families worry about letting them navigate alone,” says Goyal. “Now, we are under lockdown again.”
I report from Singapore on new cases of Covid-19 exploded among migrant workers who live in the country’s far-flung dormitories. Human rights watchers say these developments should be no surprise.
Hailed as a model for its early success in containing the spread of coronavirus, Singapore is now having to explain an alarming surge in infections—more than 75 percent of which are among low-paid migrant workers who live in shared dormitories. The sudden rise in cases not only shines a spotlight on the difficult lives of Singapore’s often invisible foreign laborers but also foreshadows how difficult it will be for any country to eradicate a virus that has brought the world to a standstill.
From its first reported case on Jan. 23, Singapore had until March 21 recorded only 390 infections with zero deaths, earning praise from the World Health Organization. Then, over the past week, the numbers soared.
On April 18, the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s website announced the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day: There were 942 new recorded infections with 893 of these among migrant workers. Singapore now has the largest infected population in Southeast Asia with a total of 6,588 cases; 4,706, or about 71.4 percent of cases, are among the country’s foreign workers who work as cleaners, construction workers, and laborers.
Women are bearing a disproportionate cost of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – but there may be a silver lining yet.
Gauri, a lawyer in Mumbai, is grappling with a new problem — how to squeeze 25 hours into a day that already doesn’t have enough hours.
With a nationwide lockdown, her maid who helps with the housework has been unable to come to work. Her parents, who live separately, face a similar situation. And it is now Gauri’s job to juggle the two houses as she cooks, cleans, does the laundry, procures groceries, and takes care of an energetic child whose school remains shut. And, since she’s working from home, she’s also reading legal briefs on the side.
“In the last few weeks it has become increasingly difficult to run the home,” says Mahesh Vyas, managing director and CEO, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. “And it is women who are taking the hit.”