Resilience Of Kenyan, Ugandan Women In Informal Sector During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Press Release Subtitle

The ICRW facilitated the development of evidence-based insights on the impact COVID-19 had, documenting its impact on caregiving responsibilities, jobs and businesses.

Press Release Date

11 July 2023

Press Release Author

Anne McPherson, Vice President of Communications

NAIROBI, Kenya July 12 – The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) has published two reports that shed light on the challenges Kenyan and Uganda women in the informal sector faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The REBUILD report findings will be revealed during a virtual event on Wednesday, July 12that 16:00 EAT and also discussed during the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali on Tuesday, July 18th from 15:30-17:00 EAT.

The pandemic that hit Kenyan and Ugandan shores in March 2020 had a profound impact, disrupting economies and straining healthcare systems. It also exacerbated social and economic inequalities, disproportionately affecting women employed in informal businesses. The ICRW studies uncovered the impact of the pandemic – and related policy responses – on women in the urban informal sector.

Titled “The Social and Economic Impact of the Covid-19 Policy Responses on Women Working in the Urban Informal Sector in Uganda/Kenya”, the reports provide evidence-based insights on the impact COVID-19 had, documenting its impact on caregiving responsibilities, jobs and businesses. The research also highlights the challenges women in the informal sector faced in accessing essential services, as well as the incidence of gender-based violence. It details the coping mechanisms women traders adopted, and their impact.

“This is an important moment to address the multi-layered impact of COVID-19 on women in both formal and informal work in Uganda and Kenya – and around the world. We should learn from this experience to create more inclusive, gender-responsive policies to support workers who are often overlooked and undervalued,” said Peggy Clark, the CEO and President of ICRW.

In a region where the informal sector plays a vital role in the economy, these reports provide critical insights into the experiences of women traders who make up the majority of workers in the sector, but whose stories are not always captured or told.

“Our research found that the design and roll-out of COVID-19 economic recovery and social protection policy responses did not directly target workers in the informal sector. Further, while non-governmental organisations played a critical role in implementing social assistance programmes, such as cash transfers targeting women in informal settlements and vulnerable households, the absence of a single comprehensive registry made it difficult for the government to account for the reach of those interventions,” added Evelyne Opondo, ICRW Africa Director.

Key findings in the report:

1. Caregiving roles: The pandemic significantly increased caregiving responsibilities for women in both Kenya and Uganda, limiting their participation in gainful employment. With nuclear families at home during the lockdown, women faced increased caregiving duties without sufficient support, impacting their ability to engage in economic activities.

2. Impact on jobs and businesses: While 89% of women in Uganda managed to retain their jobs or businesses with reduced economic activity, 72.6% of Kenyan informal women workers held on to theirs. In both instances, women adopted unique measures to sustain their livelihoods in challenging circumstances.

3. Awareness of social support interventions: The report reveals high awareness levels (above 80%) among women in both countries regarding social support interventions implemented in response to the pandemic. However, the aid received fell short of expectations, indicating the need for improved implementation and targeted support.

4. Gender-based violence: A notable percentage of informal women workers in both Uganda and Kenya reported experiencing gender-based violence (GBV). In Kenya, higher rates of GBV were reported at work (15%), while in Uganda, higher rates were reported at home (12.2%).

5. Coping mechanisms amid economic hardships and physical exertion: Women in the informal sector showcased remarkable resilience in managing multiple responsibilities despite being overburdened. The reports highlight their ability to adapt and cope with economic hardships and physical challenges.

6. Access to credit and savings: The reports emphasise the crucial role of credit and savings mechanisms for informal women workers in sustaining their businesses and supporting their families. It highlights the need for increased access to financial resources and support tailored to women in the informal sector.

7. Sexual and reproductive healthcare: The reports underscore the critical need for accessible sexual and reproductive healthcare services for women in the informal sector, highlighting the barriers to access and the importance of comprehensive interventions.

8. Stereotypes and their impact: Traditional gender roles and stereotypes continue to affect women’s well-being in both Kenya and Uganda. Girls in particular face a disproportionate burden of household chores, perpetuating gender inequalities. The reports emphasise the need to challenge and change these stereotypes to create a more equitable society.

The ICRW reports on Kenya and Uganda provide robust data and real-life testimonies that help contribute to raising awareness, challenging societal norms and inspiring meaningful change for women in the informal sector. They highlight the need for targeted interventions, policy changes and support mechanisms to address the specific needs of these women, promote their economic empowerment, and create an environment free from gender-based violence and stereotypes.

For more information and to access the full reports, please visit the International Centre for Research on Women’s website at . (Kenya report, Uganda report)

Press contact: Anne McPherson, Vice President of Communications ([email protected]; +1-917-531-4050)

Mission Statement:

ICRW is the premier applied research institute focused on women and girls. In 2016, ICRW merged with the U.S. research organization Re:Gender (formerly the National Council for Research on Women) to create a global research platform.Headquartered in Washington, DC, with regional offices in India and Uganda, ICRW provides research and analysis to inform programs and policies that promote gender equality and help alleviate poverty.