The Ministry of Health has been announcing the number of new COVID-19 positive cases daily for more than a month now. Each time, the minister outlines the list in terms of gender distribution.
However, the gender difference we should pay attention to regarding COVID-19 is the social and reproductive health impact rather than viral infections.
Currently, UNESCO estimates that COVID-19 forced 743 million girls out of school in 185 countries (approximately 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university are now at home). But the chances of girls going back to school when this is over are significantly lower than those of boys.
For instance, unintended pregnancies disproportionately affect girls. This has been made worse by limited access to contraceptives. It is girls who will be forced to stay home while the boys go back to school.
On top of increased rates of domestic violence for women, there is also the increased risk of early and forced marriage in marginalised communities where the practice continues - such as in Kajiado County, where FGM is practiced all year round.
Furthermore, disease outbreaks, in general, tend to increase girls’ and young women’s duties at home since families default to them as the primary caregivers for elderly and ill family members, as well as younger siblings who are out of school.
Clearly, the gender difference we should be paying attention to during this pandemic is not in the rate of infection, but in the number of women and girls whose chances at a better future are getting slimmer with each passing day.
Kariuki is communications lead, NAYA Kenya