e-Discussion on Women’s Leadership in the COVID-19 Response

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e-Discussion on Women’s Leadership in the COVID-19 Response

Background

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.   

Objective

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.     

Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. What can be done by governments, parliaments, civil society, and the media to ensure women’s voices are more included?
  4. 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.)?

To contribute

  1. Use the below comment section below.
  2. Send your contribution to connect@iknowpolitics.org so that we can post it on your behalf. 

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Editor's picture

Contribution posted on behalf of Siti Fuadilla Alchumaira, Co-Founder Empowomen

1.      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?

No, it is not. Unfortunately, both central and local government doesn’t provide sex-disaggregated data. In hence, we could hardly analysis the need based on gender and age. It turns out the biggest challenge to provide solution or any movements as needed. Thus the program provided is not gender sensitive.

2.      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?

There is one of effective female leaders, such as a major in one java region. She tried to work on strategic and practical plan in responding the covid-19 case in the region. She managed to work with some partners and took a quick and effective decision to protect citizens by providing disinfectant and isolation facilities for citizens. She also works with governor to slow down the spread. As one of political leader, her movement would help the citizens get prepared in facing this pandemic.

3.      What can be done by governments, parliaments, civil society, and the media to ensure women’s voices are more included?

Government hold a crucial role in leading the country to response covid-19. They need to be able in providing clear and transparent data and information, thus everyone in each sector could participate in responding the case based on data analysis or science based. In hence, as a duty bearer, state needs to consider fulfilling, protect and promote human rights in this situation through inclusive and effective policy. Most importantly, to be able leading coordination inter-sectors through clear communication and effective program. As civil society, we could participate to help each other in providing the needs if the state couldn’t provide any. In hence, we can work with other civil society organization to help government implement the policy. Media is one of important agency to bridge every information from central to grass-root. Media need to be objective and fair in providing information and prevent any misleading facts or confusing statement. Media could be a powerful tool to educate society as long as they could provide the information through inclusive for every layer society. So, they could understand and get proper information. It is important of each sector could intervene through gender responsive planning. Because eachsector will affect women and men differently. The failure to address gender-sensitive approach, we will see a long term disproportional impacts experienced by women, men and other gender minority.

4.      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.)?

In now days, civil society organization took an important role in promoting gender responsive approach to response this pandemic. Some women’s rights activist group initiates so many talks, advocacy and direct implementing program to raise awareness of people and reach out vulnerable group, such as women, children, disability groups, elder people, as they are missed out from the global or local consideration in handling the case. It might help the vulnerable groups, but it needs bigger intervention to sustain their well-being. It takes a political will from government to promote gender aspect in task force program, thus the response planning and program prepared by government could also address this emerging issue and reach out specific target and needs.

Rowina Amiri's picture

I have interest to no more about women leadership

Mariana Duarte's picture

3. What can be done by governments, parliaments, civil society, and the media to ensure women’s voices are more included? There is a wealth of measures that have been identified by the IPU that parliaments can take to reach this aim:

a) At a time when parliaments and their structures are meeting in a reduced capacity, often with a reduced number of members, it is vital to secure the participation of women at all levels and their leadership in the decision-making and oversight committees, units and/or task forces put in place in parliament to respond to the crisis. Equal participation of men and women, women’s leadership and a clear gender-mainstreaming mandate are key to ensure the inclusivity and efficiency of such parliamentary mechanisms.

b) Just as important is the inclusion of women’s voices and the contribution of women’s organizations, women representatives of labour market sectors, women working in the informal sector, women caring for the ill, and so on, in all parliamentary deliberations
during the COVID-19 crisis: to this end, virtual witness testimony via
videoconferencing technologies, among other methods, would be a useful contribution.

c) Continued functioning of existing gender equality committees and the inclusion of gender equality in the mandate of new special parliamentary committees set up to scrutinize the government’s COVID-19 response are also essential to guarantee an accountable institutional commitment to gender mainstreaming and, ultimately, an efficient parliamentary response to the pandemic.

For additional information, see the IPU guidance note for parliaments on Gender and Covid-19: https://www.ipu.org/gender-and-covid-19-guidance-note-parliaments

Editor's picture

Contribution posted on behalf of Silvia Lopez Prieto, International Idea.

1. 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?

The possibility of finding sex-disaggregated data on the COVID-19 varies between countries. The Global Health 5050 provides information about the countries that are offering access to sex-disaggregated data in relation to COVID-19 cases. In some countries, such as Colombia, Pakistan or Australia, finding information regarding the %male and %female cases and deaths is possible. However, in other countries the information available is partial as, for example, in Czech Republic or Malaysia, or no sex-disaggregated data exist, as in Russia, Serbia, Turkey or United Arab Emirates, making impossible to know the effects the pandemic is having on women or men.

Women are also more exposed than men to the virus and its effects because of their jobs. Women represent 70% of the global workers in the health and social sector. In the case of the EU, studies from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) show that 76% of the healthcare workers in the EU and 82% of the cashiers are women. The percentage increases even more in the US, where the number of women working in the healthcare rises to 92%.

Besides, the difficulties for combining work and family life are higher. As an example, 85% of the single parents in Europe are women and the percentage is similar in Africa, where single parents are women in 83% of the cases.

Focusing on the responds of the national government of the country I come from, Spain is one of those countries offering sex-disaggregated information regarding the cases and deaths, the symptoms, risk factors, healthcare workers or hospitalization, providing a deeper information about how the pandemic affects each sex.                                             

The lockdown has brought an increase in gender-based violence but also the increase of the underreport of cases due to the constant control of the abusers. To fight against this situation, the government passed a Royal Decree-Law to help gender-based violence and sexual exploitation victims by guaranteeing them the access to emergency centers, supervised flats and safe accommodations.

Besides, the Ministry of Equality has developed a plan known as “Mascarilla 19” (Mask 19) to facilitate the report of gender-based violence to victims. To make it work, the victim has to contact the pharmaceutical stuff using the words “Mascarilla 19”. By doing this, they will understand the person is reporting a gender-based violence case, being them those who provide the contact details to the authorities. The measurement tries to help victims who, because of the lockdown cannot be on their own to report their situation.

Similarly, the Ministry of Interior has implemented a tool that can be used via AlertCops, -the National Police App- to report gender-based violence cases. The App includes an SOS bottom that quickly reports emergency cases, allowing the victim not to be noticed by the aggressor.

The Spanish government has also developed another Royal Decree-Law creating an extraordinary subsidy for household workers -focusing on women- because of considering them an especially vulnerable collective due to their absence of right of unemployment benefit in Spain.

Thus, the Government has considered important to take different measurements to avoid COVID-19 deepening gender gap.

2. 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?

About half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders, however, some of the countries where clear, well and early executed social distance plans were implemented are countries ruled by women, such as Finland, Australia or Germany.

In Spain, 154 of 350 (44%) seats in the Spanish Congress of Deputies are held by women and the government is formed by 11 women and 12 men, being 3 of the 4 vice-presidencies ruled by women. By reason of that, many of the decisions the government has developed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been led by women.

As an example, the previously mentioned “Mascarilla 19” plan for providing help and assistance to the gender-based victims was an initiative of the Ministry of Equality led by Irene Montero Gil.

Nadia Calviño Santamaría is also playing an essential role in this crisis as Minister of Economy. To palliate the impacts and effects the virus has in the country’s and citizenships’ economy, the Ministry has implemented economic assistance. Apart from the subsidy for household workers above mentioned, different subsidies and endorsements have been developed to help self-employed citizenships, allowing them also to postpone the payment of the self-employed fees.

Additionally, one of the biggest impacts and worries of the virus in Spain is how the pandemic will affect children’s, youth’s and adult’s education due to the fact that all the schools, high schools, universities or educational centers are closed.

The Ministry of Education, led by María Isabel Celaá Diéguez, is another example of women leaders’ initiative to mitigate coronavirus impacts. By reason of the administrative division of Spain in Autonomous Communities, education follows a national law but are the Autonomous Communities the ones deciding how the educative projects are developed. The Ministry of Education has been working with all the Autonomous Communities and Local Authorities to ensure that people can continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. For doing that, the Ministry has created courses for teachers and professors explaining how to work with different apps, programs and technology but also developing activities or recommendations for families that, because of having children with any disability or disease, need support and extra-assistance to know how to help their children during the lockdown.

In addition, one of the biggest challenges and worries of the Ministry of Education has been decreasing the technology gap between families. In collaboration with educative centers and local and regional administrations, the Ministry of Education has created a list with all those students who need access to internet, providing it  if necessary with the purpose of guaranteeing that all the students have access to the digital platforms teachers and schools are using during the lockdown.

3. What can be done by governments, parliaments, civil society, and the media to ensure women’s voices are more included?

By reason that women are subordinated to patriarchy systems, the necessity of ensuring the inclusion of women’s voices is fundamental. Governments and institutions have to visualize how the pandemic is affecting women, providing sex-disaggregated data informing also about synthons, effects, risks, cares etc.

Additionally, it is crucial to understand that women around the world are more affected by the pandemic than men, not maybe in cases -which percentage appears to be very similar-, but in how the whole pandemic influences their lives.

The fact than 70% of healthcare workers in the world are women implies a higher risk and exposition to the virus than in the case of men. Joining this to the percentage of single parents (85% are women), the situation for many women appears to be very difficult.

Women’s quality of employment faces still big gaps compared to the quality of men’s employment. In addition, women work more in part-time jobs an informal works than men and, during crisis situations, these usually are the first affected employments.

Regarding the access to the healthcare service, women are also facing problems since, because of the full occupation of hospitals, only essential service is provided. In many countries, where abortion is not fully regulated or not considered as an essential right, women are facing huge problems because of this situation. Even in those countries where abortion is permitted, the COVID-19 pandemic is making hospitals postpone some abortions. As an example, several U.S states are considering that abortion is a “nonessential procedure” during COVID-19 which endangers women health and causes an infringement of their rights.

Governments have to consider all these situations, providing and taking into consideration women’s rights and respecting their dignity. In addition, societies must collaborate also in this visualization; citizens should not only provide support but also show and give support to women, reporting any type of women’s discrimination they perceived.

Regarding the media, in a situation in which people are locked down, the use of media has enormously increased. As an example, Whatsapp use has increased 14% and people spend 20% more time in apps due to the COVID-19. Because of this, it is fundamental that media visualize and work to include women’s voices, allowing them to express their necessities but also giving information about the rights that are being infringed during the pandemic.   

Women are subordinated to patriarchy systems, which increases the difficulty of reaching important positions 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.)

As the Executive Director of the Fund for the Congolese Women stressed: “this pandemic will increase the precariousness of women’s and girl’s situations and their vulnerability”. Although many of the points have already been mentioned in the previous questions -visualizing that many are the sectors in which women’s voices need to be bolstered- it is especially important to point the necessity of working in keeping those achievements done before the pandemic.

Even though the situation is critical and the world is experiencing a completely new situation, the pandemic cannot be an excuse to decrease women’s rights, being even more important to guarantee, fight and promote equality between men and women to avoid a bigger gap in the future.