New Publication: Women’s Rights and Roles during the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID and Gender in the Middle East, a recently released book edited by scholar Rita Stephan, is the first book to provide empirical evidence of COVID’s gendered effects. Centered within a feminist framework, this volume gathers an impressive group of Middle Eastern and North African scholars, activists, and policy experts. The book examines a range of national and localized responses to gender-specific issues around COVID’s impact on health, economy, security, and human rights in MENA region.

Arab Barometer’s Salma Al-Shami and Michael Robbins, along with Zach Bampton wrote a chapter in the COVID and Gender in the Middle East book, titled Women’s Rights and Roles during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The chapter covers key questions on how and to what extent did the COVID-19 pandemic alter pre-existing perceptions on women’s rights and roles in the MENA region? And, in what ways were the effects of the pandemic not gender-neutral? 

Among the key findings from this chapter:

Pre-pandemic results from Arab Barometer showed publics in most surveyed countries supported various equal rights for women, but most believed women should not play equal roles in both public and private spheres.
It is possible that the pre-pandemic incongruence between support for equality in rights but inequality in roles stands to become further misaligned due to women’s domestic responsibilities and their setbacks in the labor market.
However, data from Arab Barometer’s sixth wave suggest that the pandemic may both reinforce gender roles while also increasing support for women having an equal role in key decisions within the household.
Yet these gains should not be overstated: despite changing views of women in the private sphere, women will continue to contend with structural barriers to reentry into the workforce as economic recoveries limit their ability to recover job losses most MENA countries.
There appears to be an increased awareness for gender-based violence, which, while formally recognized as a health matter by numerous organizations, is not seen in this light in popular understandings. At the same time, COVID-19 has heightened citizens’ awareness of shortcomings in healthcare systems across the region and revealed a desire to strengthen them. Together, this might be an opportune moment for governments to expand healthcare—both infrastructurally and in awareness campaigns—to include a greater focus on issues related to GBV.
To Read More, Check Out The Book Here