Digital inequalities were already high among girls, women and other marginalised groups before COVID-19 but as the pandemic led to an increased digitalisation of life, these disparities have increased dramatically. COVID-19 lockdowns have meant that girls are unable to go online at internet cafes, public Wi-Fi spots, schools or friends’ houses. In homes, access to technology is often shared with and monitored by family members, further limiting girls access to and use of technology.
With restricted or no access to the internet, girls are at risk of missing out on online education following school closures, suffer increased social exclusion, and they may not have access to reliable and relevant information about the pandemic and about sexual and reproductive health. The lack of digital access also had serious economic and health implications with the impossibility of working remotely and the maintained exposure to COVID-19.
This is the moment to radically reimagine our systems and institutions so that they serve the people. The pandemic has shown that when states choose to, they can act swiftly to implement policies and spend resources that would have been unthinkable two years ago. At the Human Rights Council, we must recognize this moment for what it is -a chance to breathe new and transformative life into the human rights system and everything that it is supposed to stand for.
Although laws around gender equality and women’s rights in Somalia have advanced in the past years, there are important gaps that need addressing to effectively guarantee and protect women’s rights. If the recommendations are to have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Somalia, the government will need to take urgent and decisive action.
In response to the Special Rapporteur’s call for contributions, SRI made a submission locating the impact of COVID-19 on the right to sexual and reproductive health within a broader context of racial capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, ableism and austerity.