The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have created chaos in the daily lives of people once again. The first wave of COVID-19 had hit hard the foreign employment destinations of Nepalis, mainly to Malaysia, Gulf countries, and South Korea. The international travel restrictions led to a massive decline in migrants leaving the country. According to the Department of Foreign Employment, 368,433 labor permits were issued to aspiring migrant workers during 2019/2020, which was the lowest in the last five years. During the second wave, the government has once again halted all domestic flights from Monday midnight and all international flights from Wednesday midnight until May 14 in view of the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases. However, the data of migrant workers affected by the new suspension of international flights are still elusive.
The future of female migrant workers seems uncertain with the pandemic restrictions exposing the economic, social, and structural inequalities they face. The emerging issues concerning the status of women migrants in the COVID-19 pandemic were addressed during the two Genders in Humanitarian Action Task Team (GiHA-TT) meetings, which took place on September 15, 2020, and February 23, 2021. Women migrant workers have been pushed further into debt and poverty through dwindling employment opportunities and travel restrictions. And those women migrant workers trying to return are facing difficulties due to lack of identity documentation, social stigma, and hostility.
The Shadow Pandemic is in forefront once again as vital resources have been diverted from the women’s services. Although, support from the government has been harder to come by, a few NGOs have continued to provide invaluable help.
The family of a 17-year-old girl, who did not return home from school on Wednesday, was found dead in a forest on Thursday. While the police investigation is still going on, the victim’s family fears the case will be unsolved just like Nirmala Panta’s case.