Grandmother, breadwinner, caregiver, widow, entrepreneur: COVID-19, older women, and challenges for the implementation of the women’s economic empowerment agenda
In both academic and practitioner work on women’s work, there is significant focus on women in the 18–55 age bracket. However, there remains a gap in the policy agenda on the impact of COVID-19 on older women in the 55+ age group, including those with disabilities. Christian Aid research and projects that have focused on Myanmar, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Nigeria provide anecdotal evidence with regards to this. This paper addresses what the authors argue to be a distinct gap in programmatic work regarding the economic and social labour of women over the age of 55. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, anecdotal evidence arose that noted how women of that age bracket were holding the significant role of breadwinner, as well as main caregiver, for their families. However, on further investigation, we noted that this is an issue that has, so far, received little attention in policy and programmatic work in the international development sector, and that data surrounding the issue are often very limited, and usually found in anecdotal formats. Noting gaps within the work of our own organisation, we reflect on how such a lacuna in policy and programmatic work limits the ‘liberating’ aspect of women’s economic empowerment. Using this reflection, and drawing from anecdotal evidence, as well as discussions with individuals working with older women, we suggest strategies towards recognising and rewarding such workers, and with this to add to literature arguing for a more diverse implementation of the women’s economic empowerment agenda.
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