Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Day 13: Friends@Prajnya Twitter Takeover: "GBV and COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and Beyond" || @sharasekaram

      On December 7th, 2020, from 6 PM to 8 PM, we had Sharanya Sekaram (@sharasekaram), feminist writer and activist, tweet about "GBV and COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and Beyond":

Hi everyone! @sharasekaram here & excited to be a part of  this #16Days Twitter Takeover. I am coming at you from #lka #SriLanka & will be talking about #GBV in the context of #COVID19 & impacts. Let me begin by telling you about myself and the work I do #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:00PM)

I identify as a feminist writer, researcher, and activist based in #lka #SriLanka and work primarily as an independent consultant in the gender space. I am deeply passionate about the democratization of information and resources, as well as access to networks and spaces. (07/12/2020, 6:00PM)

I currently work with some incredible feminist & gender-focused organizations including @COFEM_EVAW, @voicesamplified, @Bakamoonolk & #EverystorySL which is a feminist storytelling collective @widya_kum & I co-founded in 2018 (07/12/2020, 6:00PM)

Over the majority of this year - during the #COVID19 pandemic - a great deal of my work has involved hearing from women & girls on the ground, both in Sri Lanka and globally about specific impacts and struggles they are facing due to the pandemic (07/12/2020, 6:00PM)

Over some Twitter threads today I hope to be able to share with you what we have learned, the impacts of #GBV during #COVID19 on women and girls, and what their demands & needs are #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:00PM)

One of the biggest issues that women & girls are facing during #COVID19 is a drastic rise in domestic and intimate partner violence. For example, in Europe WHO reports a 60% increase in calls from women seeking help since lockdown measures #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

In Singapore, IPV related calls have surged by 33% and in Argentina, a 25% increase This list goes on to include: Australia, Belgium, China, El Salvador, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Palestine, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and Italy. #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

Many people I interviewed also reported a huge increase in the reports on child rape, sexual abuse, early & forced marriage, & other forms of GBV. Women and girls had a lack of safe spaces & privacy within their own homes, increasing their risk #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

Strong critiques were made of donors who failed to prioritize GBV programs or services for victims during this time, as they were not perceived as vital. Much of the funding was directed towards health services, failing to see the linkages between #COVID19 & increased #GBV (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

The issue was not a lack of funding alone. Interviewees noted that many service providers & donors struggled with technical skills to establish new services in the context of COVID-19, further complicated by the police & military who were deployed not taking GBV seriously (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

Organizations working for women's rights across the globe have raised this & especially noted the struggle to provide services in low and no-tech settings as the most vulnerable women & girls in this situation also face limited digital access. (07/12/2020, 6:33PM)

GBV has been termed the ‘shadow pandemic’. Often, the urgency to secure physical safety can mean that the long term damaging impact of violence on mental health is overlooked and left unaddressed #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:39PM)

@swarraj: I may not be seeing all your tweets, but I wanted to ask: Sri Lanka had a the best regional track record for basic service delivery, until at least the 80s. Has that foundation helped in coping with the pandemic? (07/12/2020, 7:22PM)

@prajnya: Thanks Swarna - great question! Doesn't seem to have - activists & service providers have notice a decline in this and in fact during the first lockdown it was nurses from hospitals who indicated the scale of GBV issues (07/12/2020, 7:33PM)

@prajnya: Currently we are also seeing a huge increase in cyber-violence cases with perpetrators openly talking about lack of consequences since the police are "busy" with COVID 19 management  (07/12/2020, 7:34PM)

@swarraj: Related, is this foundation reflected in SRHR indicators? Also thinking of @LakiJay88's work relating to menstrual health and #GBV(07/12/2020, 7:24PM)

@prajnya: Lakmini I'm sure will have some excellent insights but also wanted to note that SRHR service provision & delivery is also very much tied to married, cis-gendered, heterosexual women and very little consideration to intersectional and marginalized identities (07/12/2020, 7:36PM)

@swarraj: Surely. And this is probably true of all services. (07/12/2020, 7:42PM) 

The mental health impact of COVID-19 extends beyond the effect of experiencing or witnessing GBV. GBV practitioners recount the painful experiences of mothers suffering from #COVID19 who had to leave children alone in unsafe conditions while they recovered #prajnya16days #nosgbv (07/12/2020, 6:39PM)

Often, as the primary caregiver, women toiled on despite feeling unwell and took on the additional burden of caring for sick children and elderly family members. Even after recovering, the disease leaves indelible scars on the psyche of those who went through it. (07/12/2020, 6:39PM)

With lockdowns and closure of what are deemed to be “non-emergency or essential” services during the pandemic, increasing numbers of women found themselves unable to access courts, human rights commissions, law enforcement, and other agencies when facing various forms of GBV. (07/12/2020, 7:31PM)

In some countries, it is not acceptable for women to self-isolate without male relatives and denied travel permission to move to other areas. In other cases, women struggle to apply for travel permission citing issues of GBV to move away from abusive homes and into safer spaces (07/12/2020, 7:31PM)

People I spoke to also described the struggle faced by refugees and returnees from conflict-affected areas needing to register their identities in order to access other services provided by the government and NGO’s. They often are unaware of the procedures and are left behind (07/12/2020, 7:31PM)

Women are facing violations of their human rights, & during the pandemic, it is more difficult than ever for them to access justice. The most vulnerable are those who are least considered by Governments in their policies and planning, and these are all too often women and girls (07/12/2020, 7:31PM)

Women are at the core of the fight against COVID-19. They form the bulk of the health community which puts them at high risk of infection, disproportionately bear the additional care burdens associated with COVID-19 containment measures (07/12/2020, 8:00PM)

They tend to be in informal sector jobs that disappear during crises. They are struggling to access justice, dealing with huge amounts of unpaid care work and more. Their voices are stifled & gendered challenges erased with phrases like "COVID doesn't discriminate" (07/12/2020, 8:00PM)

What does the post COVID-19 world hold for the women’s movement and what can we learn from women’s experiences in the fight against this virus? How do we hear them & work on integrating their needs? #COVID19 may not discriminate but we certainly do, and this is amplified (07/12/2020, 8:00PM)

And that’s it from me for now! It has been amazing getting to share my learnings & insights from this work with you – and I hope you learned something as well! Message me @sharasekaram with any thoughts and questions after today and I will be happy to respond! (07/12/2020, 8:00PM)

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