Women are hardest hit by the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. Beyond the direct effect of the infection by the coronavirus, women’s health and safety are at greater risk as increased prevalence of domestic violence and abuse is reported and sexual and reproductive health services are reduced. In this time of unprecedented crisis, women also face an increased burden of care and subsequent risk of getting sick because they represent the majority of front-line healthcare workers and caregivers in homes and communities globally. This is all in addition to the disproportionate indirect impact of the pandemic on women’s livelihoods everywhere. With the majority of women working in the informal economy, they often lack health insurance and social security, putting them further at risk.
While women make up 70% of the world’s healthcare workers and are overall more vulnerable in times of crisis, they only make up 25% of legislators and 6% of state and government leaders. Emergency response taskforces around the worlds are overwhelmingly male-dominated, as seen for example in the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, few women are invited and quoted in the media to provide expertise on relief and recovery responses.
Representation always matters, especially in times of crisis. The ways we respond to the pandemic and its ramifications will challenge democratic institutions in an unprecedented way if the appropriate steps are not taken. With elections being postponed or remote voting anticipated, parliaments closing or deliberations taking place online, and traditional media spaces reduced, women’s voices may be further silenced as gender equality issues move to the back burner.
To ensure an optimal relief and recovery response without compromising women’s safety and rights, governments and decision-makers across all sectors must include a gender perspective in all decisions. Gender-sensitive policies that recognize and respond to women’s needs will benefit not just women but society at large. More than ever, this crisis has shown that people’s safety and wellbeing is determined by decision makers, both elected and unelected. We are all as vulnerable as the most vulnerable among us.
With nearly two million cases and over one hundred thousand deaths deplored, the stakes are too high to ignore women’s voices and the perspectives and resources they bring to the table. This e-Discussion raises awareness about the lack of women’s leadership and representation in relief and recovery decision-making and on the importance of incorporating gender-sensitive responses during and after the crisis. Women and men in politics, civil society activists, practitioners and researchers are invited to join this e-Discussion from 15 April to 8 May 2020. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic.
- Is sex-disaggregated data on the effects of the pandemic available? How has your national and local government responded to the specific needs of women and girls in your area?
- Are women leaders visible in your country/area? Can you share examples of successful women leaders’ initiatives to mitigate coronavirus impacts? What sector are they working in, and what contributions did they make?
- What can be done by governments, parliaments, civil society, and the media to ensure women’s voices are more included?
- What are the non-formal sectors and spaces where key decisions are being taken and women’s voices need to be bolstered (e.g. logistics, supply chains, etc.)?
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