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New report highlights the gendered impact of COVID-19 government policies

Researchers explore how the state and society intersect to propagate structural violence against women and girls in The Gambia. New report “A pandemic of the home and state: Gambian women’s experiences of sexual and gender based violence” looks at the impact of government policies on women and girls during crisis.

From August 2021, Equals Now conducted research under its feminist response to COVID-19 project to learn about the ways that women and girls in The Gambia were experiencing the effects that pandemic measures posed on their lives.

With support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, we set out to explore how through data we can complement the important work that other feminists were doing to address key concerns that women had to undergo during this time, while also using the data to identify current barriers and issues for future advocacy or research intervention.  

After much work and consultations by our team with different communities in the five regions of The Gambia, we are excited to publish our first research report. The report is available through the links below.

Some information about the research 

Since August 2021, we spoke to about 300 people from over 100 households in 15 communities across the six administrative regions in The Gambia. We also held additional interviews with  more than 50 health care workers 

During the research we were challenged by:

  • Difficulty to reach some women because the places were unconnected and inaccessible in  terms of infrastructure 
  • Incredibly high depiction of fear expressed by some women where they refused to answer questions posed by the team, which resulted in the team moving to safer spaces away from their homes

Nonetheless we are found out that:

  • 69.9% of the people we spoke to are not aware of any digital services assisting victims of gender and sexual violence including the 1313 national hotline that was set up
  • Other Sexual and Reproductive Health Services were severely disrupted because of the inadequacy of health care workers, fear of contacting COVID-19 among pregnant and lactating mothers
  • Women felt incredibly unsafe during curfew times and 47.9% of women we interviewed avoided using certain streets and areas near their residences out of fear

Further research intervention

We are curious about the high amount of non-usage and unawareness of the digital services present and we would like to know why women and girls may not be using it. Additionally, it seemed that while people acknowledged the high amount of sexual violence, its effects and the way it manifested they were still reluctant to talk, report or condemn it and we are interested to learn about the attitudes and reasons that led to this.

Ways to engage us 

You can follow our Twitter page @equals_now or subscribe to our Newsletter –  for updates 

  • We are hosting a virtual call where we’ll discuss our report findings with someone from our team and the co-founder of WAVE-Gambia. You can register here to attend the call happening Monday, August 1st at 4:30pm GMT0. We hope to see you there!
  • Our community meetings to learn about behavior, discuss the findings, recommendations including new insights on sexual and gender based violence and harmful societal practices are taking place across July and August. Stay connected to learn more about these. 

We are incredibly grateful for everyone who took part in this research – from the funders, to the consultant Mat Lowe, to all the field researchers, the awesome Equals Now team and all the people who spoke to us and Brandr who helped us translate  the report into pleasant visuals.

Published: July 22, 2022