Women’s absence from COVID-19 task forces will perpetuate gender divide, says UNDP, UN Women

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Women’s absence from COVID-19 task forces will perpetuate gender divide, says UNDP, UN Women


Photo: UNDP Bangladesh/Fahad Kaizer

New York City – Men outnumber women three to one across COVID-19 government task forces around the world. Such disproportionate representation will hamper women’s recovery from the pandemic, according to new data released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, and the Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL) at the University of Pittsburgh.

As the world marks one year of the pandemic, women, on average, still make up only 24 percent of members among 225 COVID-19 task forces examined across 137 countries, as shown by the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker tool that analyzes government pandemic policies. And in 26 task forces, there are shockingly no women at all.

This new data comes as the world continues to navigate the global pandemic and its staggering impacts on women - from their role as frontline healthcare workers, to the loss of jobs as the informal economy shrinks, to the alarming spike in domestic violence and unpaid care burden, threatening to push 47 million additional women into extreme poverty.

“Women have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, making up 70 percent of health care workers globally. However, they have been systematically excluded from the decision-making processes on how to address the impacts of the pandemic. This eye-opening new data shows, for instance, that only eight countries in the world have COVID-19 task forces with gender parity,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “Women’s full and inclusive participation in public institutions is critical to ensure their needs are adequately addressed in the pivotal decisions now being made -- these are choices that will determine their futures for generations to come.”

Without women in decision-making roles, COVID-19 measures taken by governments are more likely to ignore women’s needs and it could further exacerbate the unequal recovery opportunities from the pandemic, which is already threatening to reverse decades of progress on gender equality.

UNDP and UN Women urge governments to ensure women not only have equal participation in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, but also have equal decision-making power and leadership opportunities. For an effective COVID-19 response, policies and programmes must also include a gender lens, yet 32 countries still register no gender-sensitive measures in response to COVID-19 at all.

Click here to read the full article published by UNDP on 22 March 2021.

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