Back to Stories
Q&A: What early data says about gendered impacts of COVID-19
Rohingya women volunteers are oriented on COVID-19 related precautions and consulted on what they think are the key concerns and needs for women in their community. Photo: Marie Sophie Pettersson / UN Women
Rohingya women volunteers are oriented on COVID-19 related precautions and consulted on what they think are the key concerns and needs for women in their community. Photo: Marie Sophie Pettersson / UN Women

MISSOULA, Mont. — In Bangladesh and Pakistan, women are less likely to receive information about COVID-19 than men, according to early results from surveys conducted by UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

In April, UN Women created a new rapid assessment survey tool, partnered with mobile network operators, and began rolling out questionnaires via SMS to capture the pandemic’s gendered consequences throughout the region.

With thousands of respondents already — and with weights applied to adjust for age, sex, and educational attainment — the agency is beginning to better understand how the coronavirus is impacting men and women differently.

Currently, preliminary results are available for Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. UN Women sent the survey to between 1 million and 3 million people in each country, to account for an anticipated low response rate, which returned samples of between 2,000 and 5,000. Some of the common findings across countries were expected, such as the fact that women are more likely to see increases in both unpaid domestic and unpaid care work since the spread of COVID-19.

But other results have been surprising, according to Sara Duerto Valero, UN Women statistics specialist based in Bangkok. In the Maldives, evidence suggests that lockdown regulations increased male help with household chores and care responsibilities, for example. Questions about mental health have also revealed “clear gender differentials,” Valero shared.

“Also in terms of resources, a lot of our partners we have shared the data with, they have been very interested in the fact that women have not been able to access the help they need. So that's definitely very helpful in terms of framing responses,” Valero said.

Devex spoke with Valero to find out how UN Women was able to collect the data so quickly, what it says about the gendered impacts of COVID-19 so far, and how the agency hopes the data will be used.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What did you consider when you were thinking about how to quickly collect data about the impact of COVID-19 in the region?

We started thinking about it even before COVID actually spread out through the region because our China office was already very concerned. We knew that the issue was going to be that we cannot do face to face data collection, so we started thinking about other possibilities. Traditionally, because we also work a lot on disaster statistics, surveys are conducted with phone enumerators. But in this case we wanted something a lot quicker than that.

So you built your own tool?

Yes, so what we did is we built our own data collection tool that sits on our server. We didn’t want to use third party tools because we wanted full ownership of the data and no confidentiality issues. So we basically designed our own tool that would allow us to really design the survey in any way we like. And also allow the respondents to input the data directly into our server.

You’re relying on mobile network operators to send out the surveys, right? What has it been like engaging with these new partners?

So it's been really interesting to partner with the private sector because they are much, much quicker than we are in so many ways. Their responses are fast and they're like, “yes, we can do it.” So they send a text message that says, “Hey we — as in whoever the mobile network operator is — are partnering with UN Women to find out how COVID-19 is affecting you. Please help us by filling out the survey,” and the link on the text message redirects the user directly to the questionnaire that can only be accessed if you received the message.

This is an excerpt. Read the full article on Devex.


This article was originally published on Devex. UN Women is partnering with Devex to explore how data is being used to inform policy and advocacy to advance gender equality. Gender data is crucial to make every woman and girl count. Visit the Focus on: Gender Data page for more. Disclaimer: the views in this article do not necessarily represent the views of UN Women.

show filters hide filters

Explore the Data

Learn more about our data resources, why data is missing, and explore our multiple data dashboards to learn more about gender statistics.