Covid-19 has had an immeasurable impact on women in Saint Lucia, both socially and economically. Indeed, a significant percentage of Saint Lucian women work in the informal sector, according to our observations and anecdotal reports the lockdown measures have led to a partial and sometimes total drop in their income, and they do not benefit from any social security insurance.
As a result of the lockdown, curfews, state of emergency many women have been deprived of income: waitresses, restaurateurs, hairdressers, make-up artists. Domestic workers have lost their jobs, such as Kathy, who with two small children to cater for is compelled to return regularly home to her family, while no boss wants to take such risk with her. As for Allisa, who was responsible for cleaning for a Business Person for a sum of $440 USD per month, she lost a source of income that allowed her to buy products to sell at the market, after her service hours. She is forced to solicit others to provide one meal per day for her children. In rural areas, the situation is no better.
The majority of women are engaged in the informal sector; however, the money raised by Government to assist with COVID-19 relief has largely been used to build roads and other infrastructural project which does not benefit women and children. The food distribution program was a onetime affair and many households have received nothing.
Overall, few women in the informal sector have been able to adapt to the new situation. Designers have started to make masks, female traders have switched to digital technology to sell their goods including home deliveries, but this is not within the reach of the majority of illiterate women.
The women's workloads are increasing, with the closure of schools, as the lockdown had not broken the traditional pattern of male and female roles within the household, while social distancing, the watchword which has disrupted the logic of social solidarity, deprives them of support from the other family members. Those who have lost their husbands are left alone in their bereavement without any assistance from the family. The level of poverty has worsened among women, whose spouses are affected and can no longer contribute to household expenses and responsibilities.
In the long term, the society will be devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Should women continue to be ignored economically and socially, there will be increased family instability. The most venerable women will find it difficult to get back on their feet. They will practically have to start all over again. Their recent vulnerabilities expose them to risks that can lead to more violence, prostitution and other forms of deviance. This was an opportunity for strategic planning by the state to address major problems facing poor women.
Access to food is the primary issue facing women, ability to pay rent for safe shelter, utilities and education expenses. Food security is the key to independence and a life free from domestic violence. Financial autonomy is a major problem of poor and vulnerable women and the establishment of micro loans so women can start over after the devastating effects of COVID-19 is extremely urgent.
Over the last 3 months a total of 31 women have received safe shelter which was paid in part by funds raised on GlobalGiving.
Shelter space is in demand daily, however our capacity to provide additional shelter is restricted by limited funding.