1. Gender disparity and infectious diseases
2. Infectious diseases and Human Security
3. Feminism and Infectious diseases through the lenses of the Ebola virus
Limitations (weaknesses) of the research design
Strengths in this proposed study
1. From Gender perspective
1.1. Time Poverty as a contributing factor
1.2. Carrying Roles
1.3. When Culture is the enemy
2. A Human Security Perspective
2.1. How fear aggravated the Ebola Expansion among the women population
2.2. Government failure
This is to take the initiative to express sincere thanks to my advisor Dr. Carla Barqueiro who was giving me constrictive criticisms throughout the writings of this paper. She deserves the highest gratitude for so humble to read the paper, for so willing to show me directions, for so academic to correct me and put me in the right academic highways. I also thank all members of the faculty in Global Affairs and Human Security for pouring immense knowledge to me so that the world cannot be seen the way it was so. They deserve it!
It is also highly indispensable to thank my wife Ebise Tuji who was encouraging me throughout my studies carrying the burdens of my home and my little kids, Soolan, Darmii and Suudii, who were making me smile amidst stresses.
Above all, I am always committed to thank God who gave me the opportunity to study knocking the doors of many to pay for my studies. Ample knowledge is poured to me and I hope to pass the light to others.
Gender Inequality in the 2014 Ebola Crisis and Human Security
The purpose of this research is to examine how the 2014 Ebola crisis affected women in West Africa from human security perspective. The goal is to articulate how gender inequality has aggravated the spread of the Ebola virus diseases due to unequal position held by women stemming from patriarchal doctrine ingrained in Western African communities’ cultures, governmental administrative incapability, and economic and social inequality. Gender inequality, which is deep-rooted in the culture of the Western African society tremendously played exceptional role in the spread of the disease resulting in more cases and deaths of the Ebola Virus diseases to the women population compared to male. It thus created human security breach where women were exposed to insecurities. Gender inequality was the resultant effect from gender differences that paved the way for insecurities. This has been done by reviewing the literature. Upon examination of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, it became clear that women were the most affected segments of the society in West Africa particularly in the three most hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Through showing the cruelty of cultural doctrine and gender inequality that have made the women population insecure, this research highlights the importance of gender and cultural equality along with better policy to protect women’s rights and to raise public awareness concerning harmful culture and devouring virus like Ebola in West Africa.
Key words: Carrying role Ebola virus disease, feminism, human security, gender inequality, gender role, Mano River Union Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone), Quarantine, Time poverty, Traditional healing
Ebola, a name generated from the Ebola River in Congo, is nearly half a century since it was discovered in 1976 (Quammen, 2014, p.72, Garret, 2014, p.4). Since then, according to the Annals of African Medicine, (Fawole, O., Bamiselu, etal, p. 7) Ebola is “endemic and sporadic” in Africa. Its endemic nature to Africa was shattered as the New England Journal of Medicine (Baize, etal. 2014, p. 1421) traced the 2014 Ebola Crisis “ to a two-year old child in Guinea” from where it spread to the West African nations and to the globe creating gender inequality in its impact.
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is member of the filo virus family ( (Klenk &Feldmann, 2004, p. 2) which was discovered in 1967 in Germany after a green monkey was transported from the African continent for research according to Peters & LeDuc (1999, P. ix). Filo viruses are among the most serious human pathogens as narrated by Klenk & Feldmann (p. ix) and cause severe and fatal hemorrhagic disease (p. 203). The virus’ potential spans any racial, social status or cultural barriers and has the ability to affect anyone including health professionals and community members as noted by Fawole, Bamiselu et al, (2016, p. 8). The fatality rate ranges from 80% to 50% according to Klenk & Feldmann (2004, p.138). With the ability to contact anyone, the Ebola virus disease affects vulnerable population at large.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak was a global health crisis with its unprecedented scope in the number of people it affected and the geographical stretch it covered. Doctors without Borders depicted that the 2014 Ebola outbreak was 67 times greater than all the previous Ebola outbreaks (2015). This notion was reinforced by Viebeck (2014) who expressed this magnitude on THE HILL quoting the WHO officials as “unparalleled in modern times.” Data from the CDC (2016) and the WHO (2016) affirm the scope of the virus as 28652 cases and 11325 deaths of which the highest toll in both cases and deaths were women.
The virus cannot be accounted for all the impacts that were incurred without the determinants that were accompanying. The virus also cannot be accounted as resulting in the multi-faced effects without these determinants that played the greatest role. Among these determinants and consequential factors, gender inequality embedded within the culture of the Western African countries particularly in the three most hit countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) accounts for the highest degree of spreading the disease, disrupting the “already fragile infrastructure,” according to studies in the Council On Foreign Relations (Garrett, 2016).
The spread of this disease due to gender inequality and the fragility of infrastructures breached human securities where according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) defined human security among others as “safety from chronic diseases.” This disease in most cases spread in all the three countries and across the globe because of the gender inequality which triggered human insecurity with women at the forefront in West Africa.
Accounts of infectious diseases elucidate that certain groups of a population are more exposed to infectious diseases. Paul Farmer in the article on the CDC website titled Social Inequalities and Emerging Infectious Diseases (Farmer, 1996) noted that HIV/AIDS, Ebola and Tuberculoses are attached to social inequalities. Farmer (1996) further explains that individuals who are socially in unequal position are exposed to infections. Among these social inequalities gender inequalities are at the forefront when infectious diseases are concerned. As such since 1967 when the 1st filo virus family was found according to Peters &Peters in the Journal of Medicine (1999), the virus took the lives of more women than men. It has also affected more women than men not due to the virus itself but due to the unequal position that women have in the society emanating from gender based inequalities that also “ relegated women as second best standing,” (Pike, 2011, p. 186). This relegation left women with no adequate security (2011, p. 185) exposing them to multiple insecurities.
In this Cap Stone Paper, I will be explaining details of how gender inequality has aggravated the spread of the Ebola virus diseases due to unequal position held by women stemming from patriarchal doctrine ingrained in Western African communities’ cultures, governmental administrative incapability, and economic and social inequality.
Gender inequality, which is deep-rooted in the culture of the Western African society tremendously played exceptional role in the spread of the disease resulting in more cases and deaths of the Ebola Virus diseases to the women population compared to male. It thus created human security breach where women were exposed to insecurities. These insecurities are featured by “fear and want.” The fear in this context encompasses broad understandings where diseases, violence against women and economic insecurity are discussed. Using human security approach, the research paper explains details of what fear is meant about and what insecurity is meant about.
Huge literature gap is available as far as gender inequality in the Ebola crisis and human security is concerned. This research explains what we know about infectious diseases from the literatures and connects to the Ebola virus diseases to infer a conclusion. It also explains how the Ebola virus disease affects the West African women’s human security. Feminist theory in relation to public health is also elucidated in the literature review. The final analysis is detailed guided by reports from the International NGOS, the World Bank, the WHO and the UN women and the UNECA reports. A conclusion is also drawn in winding up the paper.
1. Gender disparity and infectious diseases
Accounts of the literature depict that there is gender disparity in infectious diseases. These disparities disproportionately affect women which Gerberding (2004, p. 1965) asserts as “a formidable threat to women, claiming 15 million lives around the globe each year.” Bellamy (2004, p.2022) supports this notion detailing that “women have an enhanced vulnerability to disease, especially if they are poor,” which is a trend to social status. A report of the World Health organization (WHO) in 2007 also enhances this finding depicting that infectious diseases tend to unmask already entrenched gender disparity. Gender disparity in infections is also acute in many parts of the world taking toll in Sub-Saharan Africa (Okojie,1994, p.1239-1240)Macintyre et al, (1996, p. 617) describes that consistent findings show morbidity of women over male. This morbidity is due to illness among the women population largely due to gender disparity. Macintyre et al, (p.617) stresses these findings based on higher rates of illness among women without mentioning the causes of these illnesses. But issues surrounding the causes of these disparities are immense and linger around several arguments.
First, according to Paul Farmer (1996, p. 262) gender disparity in infectious diseases are rooted in social inequalities to which HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, communicable diseases, etc. are exemplary. While the connection of the Ebola Virus disease (EVD) to social and gender inequality is scant although Ebola is one of the most serious infections, based on data available for other infectious diseases, Ebola’s connection to gender inequality cannot be ruled out. Among very few accounts Farmer (p. 262) connects people of lower social status to the susceptibility of the Ebola virus but mostly due to their occupational standards and physical proximity. Occupational standard does not in its entirety mean those in lower occupation are at large disadvantaged, for Ebola spans social status of any kind if proximity and contact is asserted
Second, gender disparity in infectious diseases are related to “activities” according to the World Health Organization (2007, p.12). Activities here refer to occupations where occupations determine one’s exposure to infectious diseases. Among these activities or occupations carrying roles are key determinates into exposure. Carrying role playing activities are mostly done by the female population among the diverse societies of the world. Anker (1998) states this that carrying is largely done by female than men leading to exposure into infectious diseases. Rogers (2005, p. 353) takes this farther and concludes as if providing care for the others is a traditional females role. Rodgers (p. 353) avows this as a “cruel inequality.” This inequality was exhibit in the Ebola crisis as 75% of those who contracted the virus by August 2014 were women according to Saul (2014) in the Independent.
Carrying is a cultural assignment where the different cultures of the world designated to the female population where gender disparity is exhibited. This notion reflects a cultural bias in which culture itself creates gender inequality making the women population vulnerable. Lunzen & Alfeld (2014, pS79) support this understanding saying that “cultural and behavioral differences play a prominent role in the exposure to infectious diseases.”
A rare connection of the Ebola virus disease to gender disparity dated back to the identification of the virus in 1976 and even goes back to 1967 when the 1st filo virus was discovered according to Slencka & Klenk (2007, p. s132) who put the “data as lacking statistical significance.” Beyond the lack of statistical significance, the data conveys a message that gender disparity was uncovered. According to this data of 1967 elucidated in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, among 32 people who contracted the virus the case fatality rate for cases of primary infection was 25% among female patients and 22.7% male patients (Slenczka & Klenk, 2007, p. s132). Slencka & Klenk (p. s133) asserted that all the patients were laboratory employees where in most cases the employees of a health facility are proportionally female displaying gender disparity. The CDC (2014) connects the transmission of the disease at that time to a carrying role where medical personnel and family members who were carrying for the patients contracted the virus stressing the availability of gender disparity. Yet literature accounts connecting filo virus or Ebola virus disease to gender disparity is at most scant.
Although scant literature is available connecting the Ebola virus into gender, accounts of available data detail that more women were exposed to or died of the Ebola virus diseases than men affirming gender disparity according to a report from WHO (2007, p. 25-26) depicted in the graph below:
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Figure 1: Male-female ration of the Ebola virus disease since 1976. 00 reflects that data is not available. The data is available on WHO publication (WHO, 2007, p.25-26). The graph is my own preparation and the 1967 data is taken from Peters & Peters (1999).
History of infectious diseases elucidate that certain groups of a population are more exposed to infectious diseases than others. These groups encompass health care workers, people living in poverty, those engaged in regional trade networks and those in physical proximity (Farmer, 1996, P. 262). Physical proximity here refers to those who are taking care of the sick and household communities in which case women are in the fore front endangering themselves. Read and Gorman (2010, p.381) attribute this endangerment of women to their availability among the neighborhoods due to lower employment rate. The understanding here is that female’s lack of employment is exposing them. This lack of employment has a double edge where it forces them to be among the neighbors and engage in carrying that exposes females to infectious diseases. Because of this lower employment stemming from low social inequality, women lack health related resources. Read and Gorman (p. 374) argue that lack of health-related resources due to low Socio-economic profile contribute to females’ exposure to infectious diseases. Health-related resources have protective capacity to which information resources are undoubtedly important.
Physical proximity also references to health care professionals where in most cases female populations are acting as nurses or other health care workers. Thus, the culture of carrying in the African tradition mostly lies on the shoulders of women disadvantaging the women population in cases of infectious disease like Ebola which is extremely contagious transmitted through physical contact.
Buseh, Patricia, et al (2014, p. 37) asserted that nurses were among the most affected health care workers in the Ebola crisis of 2014 in part because they were in contact with the patients and “lack of rudimentary protective equipment,” according to Bush et al (2014). Backing up this, a review of literature asserts that “gender breakdowns of health care provider infections and needle- stick injuries acquired in health care settings found far more infections and injuries among females,” according to WHO’s analytical frame work on emerging infectious diseases (WHO, 2011, p. 28). The same frame work also asserts that based on:
“Sex breakdowns of health care worker exposures and infection, given the number of males and females in the health care workforce, it is safe to assume that most health care workers infected in health care settings are female” (p. 28).
Added, socially disadvantaged groups take part in low level economic activities largely. These socially disadvantaged with lower social status groups are mostly females engaging in trade networks for subsistence. These trade networks are mostly among the three Mano River Union countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra-Leone) with the highest female population engaging in cross-border trades (Manivannan, 2014, p. 1) transmitting and getting the disease through touch and contacts. The World Health Organization (2015, p.3) confirmed this cross bordering as 7 times higher than elsewhere in the word reigniting the transmission chains. This cross bordering result in infectious diseases transmission as a result of global change that undermine the capacity of States to control them (Lechner & Boli, 2015, p.298) irrelevant. This argument reflects that infectious diseases have the capacity to transcend geographical barriers and connote border trading activities as a free ride for viral diseases.
Supporting the notions above, Farmer (1996) explains that individuals of lower social status are exposed to infections at the highest degree where HIV/AIDS as an example in Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 60% among women (Temah, 2007). Among these social inequalities, gender inequalities stemming from gender identity are at the forefront when infectious diseases are concerned. As such despite lack of literature, since 1976 the Ebola virus disease has affected more women than men not due to the virus itself but due to the unequal position that women have in the society emanating from gender based inequalities that also “relegated women as second best standing,” (Pike, 2011, p. 186). This notion mirrors the situation of females where they are not treated as their male counter parts in terms of accessing resources, power and decision. This relegation left women with no adequate security (2011, p. 185) exposing them to multiple insecurities of which “fear” is at the forefront that deprived the safety of the women population. This fear is rooted in the gender differences where gender differences create fear placing one in a higher and the other in a lower position.
Added to the above two arguments, Ridgeway (1992, p.157) argues that gender differences determine women’s status within the society and their respective places giving them a lower status leading into inequality exposing women into deep human security threats. This means gender differences by themselves led to inequality within the West African society exposing women into infectious diseases and taking the biggest share of the Ebola virus disease. This status as argued by Rogers (2005, p. 352) lies in deliberation and decision making where women’s participation is at most lacking. It is a power balance in which women are left at the periphery resulted in “oppression and domination,” (p. 35) vividly displaying imposition of men’s will over women through resource control. This resource control relegated women into lower social status paving the chance of exposure into infectious diseases like the Ebola virus diseases. As stated above, the Ebola virus disease was identified in 1976, a year that marked a human contact. Since then, the virus has aggressively affected women in comparison to men as depicted in the publication of the department of gender in the World Health Organization (Who, 2007) although few academic findings are available.
According to the 2014 data available the toll of the Ebola Virus Disease on the female population is higher than men (WHO, 2016) in terms of exposure and death. Data from the CDC (2016) and the WHO (2016) affirm the scope of the virus as 28,646 cases and 11,328 deaths of which the highest toll in both cases and deaths were women. The 1st diagram below shows the total scope of the virus and 2nd diagram shows the number of cases and deaths among the female population.
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Figure 2. The data is taken from the WHO website and shows the overall Ebola cases and deaths with the latest update of March 30, 2016 situation report (WHO, 2016). .
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Figure 3. The data is taken from the WHO website but the graph is produced by me. This data dated back to 2014 explains only the cases. Although there is no major difference according to this data, the UN women noted that by September 2014 the fatality rate among women was 75% while 59% of these were deceased. This data was supported by the Independent that put the toll on women at 75% during the same period (Saul, 2014). These dates do not explain reasons behind gender differences.
This graph articulates that women are more insecure in the outbreak of infectious diseases not because of their biological wellbeing nor because males are not affected but because of the gender inequality that prevails in the society exhibiting itself through cultural systems. Kins & Kim (2011, p. 90) argue that such inequalities are rooted in cultural values deserving respect even when the cultures perpetuate inequality.
2. Infectious diseases and Human Security
Human security is safety from chronic diseases (Martin & Owen, 2014, p. 52) where one enjoys safety in the state of freedom. This means according to Martin & Owen (p.51-52) freedom encompasses freedom from fear and freedom from any pervasive threats and situations. Infectious diseases of any kind create fear in humans eroding one’s human security. Pervasive threats and situations take away one’s freedom including pandemics among which infectious diseases are stated. Taking one’s freedom pandemics put individuals and communities in the state of fear. Above all, diseases are threats to the global world. According to Fukuda-Parr (2004, p. 35) they are threats to human security with broader developmental implication. Fukuda-Parr (p.35) asserts the impact of infectious diseases where the consequential impacts extend from the dead and the ill to the families which were a typical example in the Ebola virus diseases.
“Fear” has broader implication where it references to anything that jeopardizes the safety and security of individual lives. It is an injurious environment to individuals’ health. Given the all-encompassing notion of human security fear under pandemics takes away freedom, peace and safety of individuals where an individual is not capable to govern him/herself. Whereas human security as defined by commission for Africa in Martin &Owen (2014, p.35) is fundamental protection of rights, access to resources and necessities of life including health and education, and inhabit an environment that is not injurious to their health and wellbeing (p.35). In this case, freedom from fear can only be achieved in the absence of life threatening illness but infections of high fatality rate like Ebola will leave individuals in constant fear. Fear is defined as a state where individuals lack the capacity to exercise options and not able to pursue them (p. 35).
Literature revealed that exposure to infections for women are not a sudden incident but they are the result of multiple traps among which social status, male power dominance and gender roles are noted. These multiple traps take ones capacity to exercise options and pursue them creating a state of fear. Unequal gender roles, male power and social status put women to pervasive threats. Kalipeni& Ghosh (2012, p. 24) quoting Alkire argued that infectious diseases are pervasive threats to human security. Kalipenie & Ghosh (p. 24) basing their notion on Alkire stated that the costs of infectious diseases in grief, carrying for orphans and the elderly are empirical examples of human insecurity. Kalipenie & Ghosh (p.24) also asserted that inequality, lack of education and poor health are pervasive threats that curtail the freedom from fear and the freedom from want. These all were exhibit in the Ebola crisis where lack of education led to lack of confidence to seek information and poor health from infections led the women population into a pervasive threat.
Tiessen &Thomas (2011, 483) quoting Mcay and Mazurana note that women are subject to gender hierarchs and power inequalities that exacerbate their insecurity generated from gender inequalities. These gender inequalities that expose more women to infectious disease also make women insecure in terms of human security which focuses on the safety of individuals and communities (Martin & Owen, 2014, p). This gender inequality comes from the culture where treatment of women is acceptable not among the men only but also among the women themselves who insubordinate themselves according to accounts of literature available. Rhode (1999, p. 25) quoting sociologists narrates that female’s preference for successful and ambitious mates who are power and resource control driven insubordinates them. This means insubordination is also a cultural imposition against females where females accept it as their cultural fate. It is also a taboo not to be submissive and insubordinate to men in some cultures (Uchem 2001, p. 96).
In a culture where insubordination and submissions are acceptable, individuals’ security is at risk. In subordination in human security is a “personal security” threat. It causes “psychological violence” to a person where a person is subject to “psychological trauma,” there by exposed to health problem which is fundamental human security matters.
The doctrine of human security since it was coined in 1990s has shifted the global mindset from military security to individuals where the focus was put on individuals, relations between individuals and groups (Kuehnast, Oudraat&Hernes, 2011, P.1). This focus on individuals, relations between individuals and groups is defined as the protection of all humans from critical threats which includes hunger, disease and repression (Gomez &Gasper, 1994, Martin & Owen, 2014, p.35).
3. Feminism and Infectious diseases through the lenses of the Ebola virus
Little or no literature is available in connection to feminism and the Ebola Virus diseases. But records of connections for other infectious diseases can be used for inferring a conclusion. Prior to reaching a conclusion, it is important to define feminism. Dekeseredy (2011, p. 298) defines feminism quoting Daly & Chesney- Lind as a set of theories about women’s oppression and a set of strategies for change. Feminist scholars are both men and women who produce scholarships to eliminate gender inequality as avowed by Renzetti in Dekeseredy (p. 298).
Gender inequality according to Scott-Samuel (2009, p. 160) stems from cultural powers that reinforce a particular value, belief and ideology that can be perceived as natural and inevitable. This “cultural Power” is an instrument of inequality where men are dominant group with control and decision making in every aspect of lives over their women counter parts. This every aspects of lives are decisions in regard to resources, access to health care and information where women are marginalized or “be in inferior position,” according to Dekeseredy (2011, p.299). This marginalization is an acute gender crime (Rogers, 2005, p. 353) originating from patriarchal doctrine. According to Scott-Samuel (p. 160) patriarchal doctrine is elucidated as a systemic domination of women by men expressed in many ways especially in gender relations.
Gender relations are ways in which inequality is exhibit in the African continent in which women are believed to be created for un-paying, low paying or household roles. This house hold roles or less paying roles are in most cases cultural and acceptable by the society leading into lower socio-economic status than men surmising that such would contribute to health inequalities (Nursing Times, 2015, p. 3). According Nursing Times (p.3) it is inferred that society endorses gender roles and thereby makes gender inequality acceptable.
According to Chibberu et al (2008, p. 28) women are often the primary caregivers. Chibber et al (p. 28) quoting the National Family Health survey discusses that in many developing countries, this often extends to caring for elderly and sick members of the extended family . Chibber et al (p. 28) stresses that carrying roles and responsibilities are imposed. One infers from this that there is a hierarchy for an imposition of something where this something shows the societies cultural value and male domination displaying male oppression. Crying roles expose women into diverse infections among which respiratory infections, trachoma, tuberculoses, Ebola etc. are mentioned (WHO 2007, 4)
According to Dekeseredy (2011, p.299) Feminism argues that the root source of women discrimination is patriarchy which according to same author attest that males have more power and privilege than women. Through this power and privilege male discriminate against women leading into inequality. This inequality is exhibit in diseases and unequal access to health as argued by Chibber (2008, p.31) quoting Blanc. It is also exhibit in power and decision making in relation to resources as noted above. All these are reflections of inequality where Scott-Samuel (2009, p. 159) explains health inequality as “unfair and unjust in health determinants and outcomes. This “unfair and unjust” system lies in “gender relations of power constitute the root causes of gender inequality, and are among the most influential of the social determinants of health,” according to Sen & Ostlin (2008, p. 2). Gender relation determines who is exposed to pandemics outbreak in which case the Ebola virus disease of 2014 is the best example. In the Ebola crisis, the most affected members of the population are women as documented in the (Powell 2016, p. 12).
Feminism argues that patriarchy is the source of gender discrimination (Makama, 2013, p. 116) and a threat to public health. It is also a threat to security where traditionally security has been male centric, and has privileged the State over the community (Christie, 2014, p. 100) endangering the human security of women. Feminists thus argued (p.100) that human security reframing is important to improve the lives of those affected. To be fully secured in an environment of human security feminists argue the need for participation in deliberation and decision making taking into account socioeconomic status and gender as important variables (Rogers, 2005, p.352) all of which are connected to exposure to infectious diseases including the Ebola virus diseases.
In bringing the entire literature accounts together first gender constructed roles put the female population disadvantaged. Gender based role construction is culturally oriented in the African culture. It is considered as a “natural call” for women as argued by Sylvia Tamale (2004, p. 52) based on their Biological aspect of child bearing. It is a doctrine where women grew up being indoctrinated as if it is their natural identity to take care of home based business from collecting fire woods to fetching water and from taking care of the sick and children.
According to Bwakali (2001, p. 270) African culture is role oriented in making discrepancies between men and women where both men and women grow being lectured that men are hardworking, hunters and field workers unlike women who grew up that their status is in the kitchen and being submissive to men. Bwakali (p. 270) based on this notion asserts that African culture is unfair to women even in the midst of international pressure. Deborah Rode (1999, p.45) asserts this notion saying that gender segregation carries stereotypes where boys’ activities are celebrated as heroism and involves rough and-tumble activities. One can connote from this understanding that men are born for rewarding public jobs while female are born to carry on household activities with less or no advancement. In this case, one can argue of how cultural job placements endanger one’s opportunity exposing to diseases especially as carrying jobs require those who are doing it to respond. This means carrying responsibilities require response amidst diseases out breaks regardless of the availability of protective equipment which are of course entirely unavailable for African household women or if available knowledge of how to use them is lacking as literacy among the carrying female population is insignificant.
Bwakali’s argument above asserts two things. First roles are not of individual choices among African women. Second, since it is not a choice it is something imposed blurring individual choices and risking one’s life opportunity. Since it is imposed, it is domination where discrimination is vivid putting one’s human security in danger by narrowing or restricting life chances placing someone in the situation of “want”.
Second, gender based inequality has barred literacy and women remain substantially less educated than men in Sub-Saharan Africa (Egbo, 2000, p. 4). This inequality according to Egbo (p. 80-81) sprang from patriarchal and socio-cultural biases that considered girls’ education as wasteful. As education is directly correlated to health, lack of access to education leads to exposures into infectious outbreak barring one’s ability to information.
Since education is seen as a waste and home based roles are culturally limiting one’s life chances, it is quite clear that African women are subservient and denied basic education and health care services (Pike, p. 187). This denial and subservience exposes women depriving them from knowledge and access to opportunities but above all exposes them to infections that affect them at large. This deprivation is linked to power where power determines who can and who cannot.
Third, Wolfe (2014) in Foreign Policy quoting Waafa El-Sadr expressed the death toll in the Ebola crisis as showing who has power and who has not. Wolfe (2014) basing on El-Sadr says that this mirrors the society and how they treat each other meaning that power in the gender system determines who is exposed to the virus. Power in this sense is generated from gender inequality where men dominance is vivid. Power here is the capacity to impose once will upon others (Bumen, 1984, p. 6). This imposition of once will is exhibited in control over resources (p. 6). In fact, Ridgeway (1991, p. 1) details that the basic gender inequality is in the distribution of power where this power vested advantage on men to control the conduits to economic power (Blumen,1984, 168) where the lack of economic power from the women sector deprive them access to health. This means how much you have determines how much you can access to health care.
In the environment where women are deprived of economic resources which is linked to power, access to effective and adequate health care (Kaufman & Williams, 2010, p. 127) is lacking for women. Deprivation from economic resources sprang from lack of power where power in the African culture is in the hands of men clearly disclosing the gender inequality syndrome with uneven distribution of power over resources and even over oneself where in fact women are seen as properties of men. For example, Farmer (1999, p. 1) noted that HIV/AIDS was enhanced because of the inequality between male and female a direct implication of power. This notion is supported by Eaton quoted in Wodi (2005) where it is argued that men claim ownership of women and use force if needed to impose their will over them. Ownership shows what one can do to its properties. In African culture women are considered properties where the ownership philosophy reveals the power on the property with intense gender inequality rooted with violence.
In the situation where power is unevenly distributed (Kaufman & Williams. 2010, p. 127) and traditionally women are tied to men for economic security and wellbeing (127), it means that the security of women in all situations depend on the will of men placing the women population at the disadvantaged position exposing them to countless security matters including leaving in the state of exposure to infectious diseases.
According to gender doctrine, there is social status with established patterns of expectations and life opportunities (Lorber & Moore, 2002, p. 4). These established patterns stemming from gender based understanding is embedded within a society in different economic, family, political, medical and legal structures impacting on how women and men are treated (2002, 5). Here one can argue that individuals’ treatment depends on the socially constructed gender leading into inequality based on the acquired gender understanding than who I am. This gender based inequality is a force in political, economic & domestic life leading to social inequalities (Farmer, 1999, p. 141) weakening one set of gender over the other. Farmer (1999) in his book detailed how HIV/AIDS ravaged the Haitian women largely due to gender based inequalities that exposed the women section to the incurable diseases. In a similar fashion, one can take the implication from this that mirrors how the Ebola crisis killed more women than men. Hogan in the Washington post (2014) clearly depicted that the Ebola virus disease impact in terms of cases and deaths on the women population was the result of gender inequality whether in terms of access to resources and failed government policies.
The Ebola virus disease was accompanied with short comings in government responses and gender inequality also devastated economic possibility and exposed the women into insecurities which has huge implication from human security perspective although connection between human security and the Ebola virus disease has never been linked together in academic literatures.
To sum up, the entire discourse in relation to gender inequality; infectious diseases and Human security can be traced as follows:
First, gender inequality is embedded within the culture of the Western African countries especially in the three Mano River Unions (Guinea, Liberia & Sierra-Leone). With its deep-rooted power doctrine, where power is in the hands of men and seen as a natural call with its masculine hegemonic attachment where every decision including decisions of health are made by men. This hegemonic Masculinity vests unquestioned male power as argued by Rwafa (2016, p. 46). Rwafa also argues that this unquestioned power is embedded in the cultural religious matters (p.43-46). This unquestioned male power is a power over resources, decisions and others but above all it is the controlling instrument over the female population depriving their dignity which is a human right and a human security issue. It is also a controlling mechanism where due to power vested on the men, women are obliged to do not what they have chosen but what men have chosen for them limiting their ability to be free from “want” which is an important aspect of the human security approach. In falling into constraints of “want” women in West Africa have lack of access to life opportunities tied to the decision of a superior class; men. In being tied, women are exposed to domesticity where they were exposed to the carrying doctrine in which all those Ebola victims carrying accountability fall on them within no or little resources to take care of themselves exposing them into the killing disease. Although there is literature gap, it can be inferred from studies on infectious diseases that Ebola rampaged more women due to carrying doctrine.
Second, gender inequality is reflected in engagement in petty trades where majority of the border retail trades economic opportunity are done by the women population exposing themselves into multitudes of crowds where the chances of getting the virus was high. These trades are low paying economic opportunities besides that they are there due to lack of economic opportunities for women.
Third, Ebola and human security have strong gender implications. These gender implications are manifested in the society and individuals through their actions. These manifestations expose female populations into insecurities and health problems. Taking accounts of Ridgeway (1992, p.1) how he explains the power relations in gender relations expose women into insecurity from lack of power to challenge societal status quo of power distribution connected to role sharing doctrine and resource controlling ability. This study examines gender relations and gender dynamics and how they created human security threats to women in Ebola hit countries of West Africa.
Human security places individuals, the safety of individuals at the center of human security doctrine. Ebola as a human security issue affects everyone regardless of race, sex, and back ground but poses human security threat to female population springing from inequality between men and women.
Fourth, gender inequality is exhibit in access to information, education and ingrained in the cultures, government incapability and social and economic system of Western African countries creating security threats to women. As rampant lacking information was imminent in the Ebola crisis due to governments ban on journalists to keep their reputation and due to lack of knowledge to seek information from the women population, the Ebola virus disease had an easy pass killing thousands and affecting many females. Information with regard to the Ebola virus partly because majority have no education to have confidence seeking information or barred from getting information led to the expansion of the disease.
Fifth, gender inequality is rooted in societal cultures and exhibit in the form of patriarchal domination over resources and access to health and health information which are potential threats to one’s health.
- Quote paper
- Wasihun S. Gutema (Author), 2017, Gender inequality in the 2014 Ebola Crisis and Human Security, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/368125