Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown


Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women

Publisert: 2021-01-25     Redigert: 2022-05-20

This situation risks reversing the limited gains made on women’s rights and empowerment in the past decades; gains that are critical to fulfilling the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must take this opportunity to ensure that gender equality dimensions are fully embedded in our short-term responses as well as in longer-term recovery to build the more equal and resilient societies that we will need to achieve the SDGs. We don’t want to rebuild the patriarchy.

This starts with women’s leadership. Women are on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, comprising 70 % of workers in the health sector and acting as careers at home and mobilisers in their communities, yet they remain largely sidelined from decision-making structures. In several countries, including Norway, women leaders are providing powerful examples of how women’s leadership and participation can provide more effective, inclusive and fair policies, plans and budgets to address the pandemic. Yet women are heads of state and government in only 21 countries. Recent analysis shows us that we have created a world where women are squeezed into just one quarter of the space, with men comprising 75 % of parliamentarians, 73 % of managerial decision-makers and 72 % of executives of global health organizations. This has to change. To successfully address the pandemic, we need more women to be visible in positions of leadership, both to contribute their valuable perspectives and to alter the commonly held perception of a leader as a man.

We must also secure support to civil society as a vital aspect of building back better; in particular the grassroots and community-based groups involved in the response measures. Pandemic control measures are threatening already insecure civic space and must not become a route to curtail civil society activism and participation.

For women and girls not to fall further behind, we need a strong gender-focused response to the COVID-19 pandemic in every national response plan, every stimulus and recovery package and in all budgeting of resources. We need to see donors and governments making strategic public investment, including in social protection measures, such as cash transfers or unemployment compensation that extend to informal workers; and bailouts and support measures that include micro- and small businesses, where women entrepreneurs tend to be clustered. The prevention and redress of violence against women must be a top priority, including the immediate designation and long-term protection of shelters and helplines for women as essential services with increased resources, sensitization and maintenance of police and justice services, along with pre- and post-natal health care and sexual and reproductive health. There must be a strong focus on bridging the digital divide, so that women and girls can access education, remote working and information wherever they are, despite pandemic measures. And the unpaid role of women in sustaining care and domestic work must be recognized as vital to the economy, including through support for child-care programs and economic stimulus packages, and the care load shared between genders.

Together we can create the inclusive, equal and more resilient societies we need not just to mitigate pandemic impact, but to achieve the ambitious goals that we set in the 2030 Agenda.

This text was originally published in the 1/2020 edition of our magazine iFokus. Read the magazine



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