About 15 pc of married women could not access contraceptives during Covid lockdown last year: Study

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New Delhi, July 5 (PTI) About 15 per cent of married women from low-income households could not access contraceptives during the Covid lockdown last year, while 16 per cent of women, who used sanitary napkins before the pandemic, had no or limited access to menstrual pads for a few months, according to a study.

Dalberg, a social impact advisory group, released a study called 'Impacts of COVID-19 on women in low-income households in India'. It captures the experiences and perspectives of nearly 15,000 women and 2,300 men across 10 states, making it one of the most extensive studies on the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women.

The study found that a small but significant number of women reported food insufficiency and severely limited access to menstrual supplies and contraceptives during the lockdown.

'Approximately 16 per cent of women, who used menstrual pads before the pandemic, had no or limited access to menstrual pads between March and November. Additionally, 15 per cent of married women could not access contraceptives, primarily due to concerns about accessing a healthcare facility during the pandemic,' the study said.

The study also found that women made up just 24 per cent of earners before the pandemic, but represent 43 per cent of those yet to recover their work.

'We estimate that nearly 8.7 M (87 lakh) women working before the pandemic remained out of the workforce as of October 2020. During the lockdown, we found on average that they lost two-third of their meagre incomes,' the study said.

The study also found that women faced an increase in unpaid work and were much more likely to report having lost time for rest as compared to men.

According to the study, overall the economic effects of the pandemic have been significantly harsher for historically vulnerable women, including Muslim, migrant, widowed, separated and divorced women.

'About one in three women considered the government's support most crucial in weathering the crisis (this was at par with perceived support from family). Women engaged in MGNREGA work saw a 27 per cent lower decline in their income than those who did not, while approximately 70 per cent of women relied on PDS for nutrition during the pandemic,' the study said.

Commenting on the study, Swetha Totapally, Partner, Dalberg Advisors, and the author of the report said, 'The impact of the pandemic on women in India is both devastating and unsurprising. It is clear that government entitlements have proved indispensable in helping women navigate the crisis so far, our findings demonstrate how such help can be even more responsive to the needs of specific segments, and they show how support can be re-imagined for the longer term.' 'These expenditures are smart investments in the long term recovery and health of our entire economy and society, and we believe that it would be of real consequence to universalize, extend, and reinforce these entitlements, especially for women,' said Totapally.

The research, conducted through telephonic surveys from October 20 to November 14, 2020 and triangulated where relevant with other surveys, encapsulates their experience living through the world's longest lockdown from March 24 to May 31, 2020, and the following months from June through October 2020.

The respondents were selected from 10 states (viz. Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal), representing 63 per cent of the population in low-income households pan-India.

The study was concluded with support from Ford Foundation, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. PTI UZM SNE

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