As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact lives around the world, data increasingly shows the disproportionate effect that it’s having on women, and on women in poverty, in particular. One reason for this is that women in low- and middle-income countries work overwhelmingly in now-inaccessible spaces (like people’s homes and public markets) and are provided less access to government support.
When COVID-19 struck, researchers in Kenya spoke to women they had come to know well to learn about the impacts of the pandemic in their lives. One such woman, whom we’ll call Faith, shared her story with us, and now, we’re sharing it with you. Out of respect for her privacy, we won’t show her face or other identifying details, but you can glimpse her life through her words and through photographs of her environment.
In one woman’s story, a glimpse at global COVID trends
Photo by Fredrik Lerneryd | Getty Images
A home in Faith's grandfather's neighborhood
With nowhere else to go, Faith had to go back to her husband and his family. She’d originally left when she’d gone into premature labor after one of his beatings, and her child died after three days. Faith says that her husband hasn’t been violent since she moved back but admits that “sometimes I can see he is this close to punching me.” She also talks about the constant emotional abuse she suffers from his family, particularly his mother, who blames Faith for her own financial problems.
A courtyard similar to Faith's in-laws' home.
When her children were in school, she knew they’d get lunch every day. If she couldn’t afford to pay for it, the teacher would advance her money for a few days. Now, if she’s short, they don’t eat. Her 8-year-old son, now constantly exposed to his stepfather’s explosive temper, has started pushing back against his mother and refusing to do his homework.
Faith’s son looks into his grandfather’s hen coop that is also used as a blackboard.
Harvests of rain
In Kiambu, the price of maize shot up (from 90 to 140 shillings), so Faith and her children eat whatever she can grow. “This past Sunday,” Faith said when she was interviewed, “we almost slept hungry... I just boiled some kale for the children and they ate it by itself.” Her in-laws don’t share food with her or her children. They can’t afford to buy tanks of water, so they’re harvesting rainwater instead.
A neighbor's maize fields.
Discover more stories like Faith’s in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers report, which offers global perspective on the pandemic.