Impact of COVID-19 on women in Ilorin, Nigeria
The real impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable people, especially women and girls in third-world countries like Nigeria needs to be studied to understand the extent of the damage done. In 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 40 percent of the total population, live below its poverty line. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by their sex: Compounded economic impacts are felt especially by women and girls who are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty. United Nations [UN] (April 2020).
Thirty-seven women were interviewed about how COVID-19 may have impacted them. The result indicates that women have been impacted economically, socially, and psychologically; 22 women out of 37 (aged 18-25 and 35-60) reported having been impacted economically. 25, 27 and 36 women [out of 37] (aged 18-60) reported to have been impacted psychologically, educationally and socially – respectively. Words such as depression, lonely, Isolated, poor concentration, less interest and less social interaction was commonly used by participants to describe how COVID-19 impacted them.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global phenomenon that has impacted nearly all human beings – regardless of gender, age, or location in the world. According to a report, 47 million women and girls worldwide will become extremely poor out of the 96 million projected people to be pushed into extreme poverty by COVID-19. UN Women and UNDP (2020). The Vanguard Online News, Nigeria (December 2020) published an article that described the sad and deplorable condition wrought by hunger among poor people in Nigeria during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown. The story particularly emphasized the condition of female parents who had to endure watching their children suffer hunger and without the ability to do anything. The impact of COVID-19 is currently being felt in all spheres of human endeavour; it has affected the health, economy, education, religion, and overall wellbeing of all citizens. In Nigeria, the significant impact of COVID-19 seems to have been on people's social and economic life.
Thirty-seven women (age 18-60) agreed to participate in the study. They were selected and interviewed using a simple random sampling method. The interview was conducted at locations of their convenience. The selection criteria were based on availability and consent to participate. Eleven (11) women age 35-60 work in the informal sector and twenty-six (26) women aged 18-25 are university students.
Material and procedures
The interview was conducted through a questionnaire that consists of five questions in total (semi-structured, open, and closed-ended questions). The questionnaires were administered by two female students of the University of Ilorin. The result was collected in the form of answered questionnaires. The data was collected at different times and locations in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria.
The data was transcribed, categorized into Age, occupation, economic impact, psychological and social impact, and entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet after careful review.
Results: Women at more risk
Research indicated that women are at a higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19 because 70% of health care workers are women. Miyamoto, I. (2020). Most of the women aged 35-60 interviewed during this survey are traders.
Fear and disbelief
Fear and disbelief were everyday experiences for most Nigerians when the news of COVId-19 broke. The Nigerian government had to declare a complete lockdown of all commercial activities in the country's major cities to control the deadly virus's spread. COVID-19 happened over a year ago, but the fear it left behind was still noticeable among the women, and young women interviewed for this study. The fear can be divided into two; the first was that it happened suddenly. Some of the citizens opined that COVID-19 was a farce. The second level of fear happened during the enforced lockdown; since most working women in Nigeria are petty traders, their sustenance is strictly dependent on their daily sales ability. FADAYOMI, T. (1991).
Hence, it was difficult for them to abide by the curfew timing without resistance and the fear of being arrested by the lockdown enforcement agents. Nevertheless, some people still doubt the Nigerian government's sincerity about handling the pandemic, which has changed the world.
One woman (a trader) said:
"It affected our business because they gave us time which we could sell, and once we hear that they (police) are coming, we will quickly close our shop and run away." "May we not see such again, God forbid 'coro' (Coronavirus)."
Another woman (a trader) said:
"COVID-19 did not affect me; it was the Nigerian government that affected me in terms of regulating when we can open shop or cannot. I was one of the people that questioned whether it was real but what I saw on television shows it was real".
Enforced lockdown equals loss of sources of income – which equals hunger.
A substantial number of Nigerian women are the primary breadwinner or play a crucial role in contributing to their families' upkeep, even though Nigeria remains a society where the patriarchy system dominates social perceptions. An average Nigerian woman is enterprising – ready to sell any product to earn income when faced with a difficult financial situation whether or not she has entrepreneur skills. Hence, selling is mostly about survival or sustaining their families.
A trader stated:
"COVID-19 took away the sources of income of many people that I know. May God prevent it from reaching our city."
Another trader said:
"everything has crumbled";
– when asked how COVID-19 impacted her.
Debtors could not pay.
Some of the market women surveyed spoke that their debtors who are also off work or become unemployed due to COVID-19 could not afford to pay what they owe. One part-time trader said:
"my customers who bought goods on credit could not pay because they are out of a job due to COVID-19."
Another trader said:
"The flow of my income stopped as I could not go to work, and there was no pay. I had to "over-manage" the little that I had."
A woman stated:
"I was forced to change my business (internet cyber cafe) which was dependent on the university students as customers because schools were forced to close, and students vacated the university environment due to COVID-19. I resorted to selling in the market to make ends meet."
Social and Psychological implications
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure. It can also come in the form of disturbance of sleep and appetite; tiredness and poor concentration are common. (World Health Organization [WHO] (January 2017)).
A 22-year-old lady who identified as a businesswoman said she had a relationship breakup. Respondents reported difficulty in many areas of their lives due to restrictions on free movement. The traders were always on the lookout, fearing being arrested by the security agents who ensured that people comply with the curfew schedules.
100% of the 26 young women (aged 18-25) interviewed reported staying at home during the enforced COVID-19 lockdown with no single formal or structured education taking place. This implies a sudden stop and complete break away from routines, formal studies, and related activities, leading to a disinterest in studies among the female students. Words such as lost, trimmer, and declined interest in their study were commonly used to respond to how COVID-19 impacted them academically.
Most of the young women used the following words frequently in their responses:
"I had depression," "I almost had depression," "I felt stocked at home, as I could not go to visit friends," "I was broke; I could not work, and the regular allowances from my parents while the university was open stopped during the COVID-19 lockdown".
Relief supplies and social welfare
REUTERS reporters Percy Dabang and Angela Ukomadu (November 2020) reported how citizens targeted and looted state warehouses across Nigeria stocked with COVID-19 relief supplies, which they (citizens) say should already have gone to the poor and hungry.
Respondents believe that the supplies were hoarded instead of it being distributed to those who desperately needed them. The respondents were asked whether they benefited from pandemic relief packages or social welfare in meeting their basic needs during the enforced lockdown and whether they encountered professionals like social workers or NGOs during the same period. Only one (1) person reported to have received 10kg of rice and 5kg semolina from an NGO in her neighbourhood; others said they did not receive assistance from any institution (government or NGO). A few people said they heard that some religious organisations provided foodstuffs to support the needy, but they did not get any.
The main limitation of this study is that the sample size is small.
Owing to the outbreak of COVID-19 being sudden; with grievous consequences, there is the need for concerted efforts, collaborative study, and reports from medical and paramedics practitioners and other professionals such as epidemiologists, pathologists, psychologists, civil society organizations, and social workers in Nigeria to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls.
Women are disproportionately more in the informal economy because it does not require professional skills or colossal capital. 26.86% of women in Nigeria are engaged in non-farm business activities. Enfield, S. (2019). Hence, going to the marketplace where their goods are sold is germane to their survival, especially earning their day's meal. Some respondents noted that they had spent their business capital (money) for feeding during COVID-19 enforced lockdown.
Most low-income earners in Nigeria are women whose daily bread or income are primarily subject to their daily sales; they are the ones who also bear the brunt of COVID-19 related lockdown – in a country that has no reliable social welfare system or program through which such citizens can be cared for. For most women in Nigeria, no sales mean no money to maintain their home or family.
Enfield, S. (2019). Gender Roles and Inequalities in the Nigerian Labour Market. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.
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Gauteng City-Region Observatory. How Covid19 puts women at more risk than men in Gauteng, South Africa. By Alexander parker, Gillian Maree, Graeme Gotz, Samkelisiwe Khanyile. December 21, 2020.
Miyamoto, I. (2020). (Rep.). Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies. doi:10.2307/resrep24863
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