In the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the global community is scrambling. The World Bank, the G7 group of the world’s largest developed economies, the European Union and the United States have collectively pledged more than US$40 billion to avert food and humanitarian crises (see Supplementary information). Yet these massive funds are unlikely to get women and girls the help they need. The investments might even exacerbate inequalities.
Crises hit women and girls especially hard, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed an additional 47 million girls and women into extreme poverty, reversing decades of progress. Data from 40 countries show that 36% of women stopped working during the pandemic compared with 28% of men, as shutdowns of schools, childcare centres and local markets kept women at home rather than earning income. Getting enough to eat has become more difficult, too. In 2021, at least 150 million more women than men were experiencing food insecurity, and the gap is growing.
With the war raising prices of food, fuel and farming supplies, women and girls are most likely to bear the brunt. When resources are scarce, entrenched power imbalances mean that women have a tougher time growing and selling crops, running small businesses, accessing health care and education, and just leading their lives. As budgets shrink, women frequently act as ‘shock absorbers’, eating less to leave food for others in their household. In many cultures, women’s assets (including productive ones such as small livestock) are sold off before those that are controlled and used by men to generate income (such as farm machinery or cropland). Higher costs for fuels used in cooking and transport often mean that women have to spend more time gathering firewood and might need to walk, cycle or use public transport to take children to school or travel to markets or jobs. [Continue reading…]