Research findings by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) Ghana, a non-profit organization, have revealed that the COVID–19 pandemic reduced access to sexual reproductive services to women and girls.
The research, which was conducted in 2020 in partnership with Crossroads International, showed that the reduction in access to sexual reproductive services to women and girls in the country caused an increase in the rate of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
Madam Bernice Sam, a lawyer, said this in a presentation at a seminar held by WiLDAF to build the capacity of key stakeholders, including the Department of Social Welfare, Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), on the impact of COVID–19 on women and girls.
The survey was carried out to address the gender dimensions of COVID-19 effects and responses effectively and sustainably and how policy responses to the pandemic could be designed such that inequalities would not be worsened
She said there were 109,000 pregnant girls, and some of the girls had refused to go back to school while the boys were working to cater for the girls.
Lawyer Sam said there were disruptions in sexual reproductive services for women and girls hence the rise in self-medication and the visit to pharmacies.
According to the findings, the girls and women did not access antenatal care, therefore, there were maternal and neo-natal problems and there had been anxiety, fear, and emotional changes in children.
The findings showed that between May and June last year, 35.7 percent of businesses had been shut down, which made women in vulnerable jobs suffer and there was a reduction in income of women in the informal sector, resulting in a financial burden for women to cater for their children.
The research findings indicated that wives and mothers struggled to supplement the family income, there was reduced income yet increasing food prices and poor nutrition for rural women, adolescents, and school children.
According to the research, there had been an increase in child marriages due to poverty, pregnancy, and stigma; increased commercial sex work, and more head porters (Kayayei), domestic workers, and human trafficking.
The findings attributed the increase in domestic violence and abuse, resulting in death during the pandemic to tensions and stress.
The report said women and girls could not report acts of sexual violence and abuse to the Department of Social Welfare, CHRAJ, and DOVVSU due to the covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
It was recommended that Government must financially invest in building more health facilities towards the end of this year to its agenda 111 as read in the 2021 mid-year budget review by the Minister of Finance.
WiLDAF Ghana is a women’s rights-based NGO aimed at increasing community access to justice and increasing women’s participation in democratic governance.
WiLDAF Ghana works across the 16 regions of Ghana and seeks to protect and empower girls and women by employing a right-based approach that utilizes the power of law to contribute to gender equality and sustainable development.