By Jubin Katiraie
The coronavirus crisis in Iran and the incompetence of the government is causing additional pressure for female heads of the household because, due to the sexist nature of the state laws, their jobs are less secure in the first place.
Many women earn money through making things at home, but they are finding it harder to sell their wares or even get the materials needed to make their items because of the authorities’ crackdown on people leaving their homes.
In a survey of 140 female paddlers, some said they were contemplating suicide, which was backed up by a women’s rights activist, who revealed that they’ve had phone calls from women heads of household in Izeh, Bostan, and Shadegan “planning to commit suicide” if no help was offered.
The problem is not that people are being stopped from working outside the home, but that the authorities have failed to provide for these workers who will have no money coming in to buy food. Many other countries have instituted lockdowns, but then paid employees and self-employed people who cannot work at home a portion of their wages. The Iranian government is forcing people to choose between catching coronavirus and starving to death; no wonder so many have been forced to continue working.
Of course, there are additional pressures for female heads of households at this time, including increased care for children, as well as elderly or vulnerable relatives.
In addition, female heads of households are often malnourished and have weak immune systems, so they are more susceptible to the coronavirus, especially if they are worn down with the current extra pressure, which means that she could spread it to other relatives. There may also be less money to treat her if she does become ill.
This is no small problem. In Khuzestan Province alone, there are at least 33,000 female heads of households, with a large number of those being peddler women. With the ban on travel to Khuzestan to stop the spread of coronavirus, these women are seeing fewer people who will buy their goods. Again, the problem is not the restriction, it is the lack of help.
Mrs. Goudarzi, a female head of household in Ahvaz who is disabled and has two daughters in school, said she has not been able to sell her relish sauce for a month, that debts are mounting, and the relish sauce will rot eventually without refrigeration, which she does not have. She applied to have her monthly pension of 200,000 tomans (USD 12) paid a month ago, but this is far below the poverty line of 8 million tomans ($730).
She said: “[In mid-March], they had come to cut off our water. We had a hard time preventing them from doing so. We were disgraced before our neighbors. I have no family or anyone to help me. Over the years, I have been working to earn my family’s living. The government does not give us any aid so that we could get through this crisis and compensate for our losses!”
The authorities are still trying to hide the scale of this crisis to defend their lack of action and their refusal of aid.