Our candles are burning on both ends: COVID-19 and unemployment

Twenty-one days of lockdown appear to be a logical step to stop the spread of COVID-19. For young people, women, and girls though, the effects of the lockdown have made survival both precarious and unbearable!

Precarious because so much fear abounds and unbearable our livelihoods have been disrupted. The streets from which we eke a living are out-of-bounds just like our customers who are in their homes. As such, we cannot vend our wares or foods and have no immediate feasible alternatives.

With little or no savings, the consequent commodity price hikes which were triggered by the lockdown have condemned us to a bleak future.

For those whose businesses rely on the internet to advertise, communicate with suppliers and customers, the soaring cost of internet bundles means we cannot thrive. Given the fact that most of us young people are the breadwinners for our families, we are at our wits end.

Moreover, in patriarchal settings like abounds in our society, the responsibility to shoulder care work in the home only becomes heavier during crises like this one. Each stomach in our care must still be fed even though there is lesser food available because of artificial shortages and the dry spell.

The threat of violence targeted at women and girls, in all its forms, is higher and indeed a number of incidents have been reported in the media over the past month.

Water shortages in Harare and beyond only serve to expose women and girls to sexual violence as the venture out to find water for domestic use.

The futility of the recommended social distancing measures is made evident by the cramped nature of our dwellings, the high population densities of our neighbourhoods and the queues we must endure to get the few necessities we can buy from local shops and malls.

Beyond StatutoryInstruments and press statements, it would be a welcome relief if government provided financial relief and policy packages (for example tax cuts and restructuring of loans) to address the plightof especially Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs).

If there is anything we should learn from the current crisis, let it be the urgency of providing gender responsive public services. The burden of unpaid care work does not impact women and girls alone; it has a negative effect on overall economic productivity of the population because women lose time taking care of responsibilities that a functional social service system would address.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to turn her fortunes around by investing in her young people through the provision of public services.The future is young and the required attention must be paid to these issues.

Source: Future Karichi*

*Future Karichi is a Young Entrepreneur, Fashion Designer, Gender Equality Advocate, Human Rights Activist and a member of Activista Zimbabwe youth movement. She writes in her own capacity. +263773465801 / karichif86@gmail.com