New York, NY, 9 April 2020 — As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies around the world, it is clear that, while early data indicates that the mortality rate may be higher for men, girls and women are playing an outsized role in the pandemic response and will be significantly impacted by the short- and long-term implications of the global crisis. Women Deliver, a global advocate for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women, welcomes today’s new United Nations report and Secretary General António Guterres’ call for a gender lens on the global response and recovery efforts to COVID-19.
“Girls, women, and gender equality must be front and center in the emergency responses and in social and economic recovery efforts for the world to emerge from this crisis healthier, stronger, and more equal,” said Katja Iversen, President/CEO of Women Deliver. “Women are playing an outsized role responding to COVID-19. An inadequate response to the outbreak — or one that does not put a gender lens to immediate efforts and longer-term recovery — will leave girls and women behind, exacerbate entrenched inequalities, and reverse decades of hard-won gains for gender equality. Women Deliver was pleased to have inputted into the report by sharing ideas, evidence, and perspectives from partners around the world, and we look forward to continue working with the UN and others to put a gender lens on COVID-19 efforts.”
In new recommendations — ‘Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women’ — released today, the UN examines the scale of the impact of the pandemic on girls and women and urges all national outbreak responses to take three vital cross-cutting actions, immediately:
- Ensure women and women’s organizations have equal representation in all COVID-19 response planning and decision making.
- Drive transformative change through policies that address the inequities of paid and unpaid care work, which is performed in bulk by women, into a new, inclusive care economy that works for everyone.
- Apply an intentional focus on the lives of girls and women in all efforts, such as fiscal stimulus packages and social protection programs, to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
“Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Every policy response that recognizes this will be the more impactful for it.”
Like Women Deliver, the UN warns that the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse gender equality gains made in the past 25 years. However, applying a gender lens in post-pandemic recovery efforts, like social and economic policies, presents an opportunity to rectify long-standing inequalities and to build a more equal world. “Putting women and girls at the center of economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all, support a more rapid recovery, and place us back on a footing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” the report notes.
“It will cost more lives and future prosperity for millions if we don’t invest in the response and recovery with a gender lens,” Iversen explained, underscoring that “governments need to safeguard sexual and reproductive health services. People still have sex, women still get pregnant, and childbirths still need to be safe. It will be expensive and tragic to cut back on reproductive health services.”
Also in the report, the UN shares specific ways in which it will help global and national responses meet its recommendations for an effective gender-lens approach. Women Deliver applauds these actionable commitments, which include:
- Providing gender analysis and sex-disaggregated data to inform national policies, including those related to COVID-19 response programs and policies.
- Safeguarding the provision of sexual and reproductive health services, which are central to the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.
- Paying explicit attention to the role of women as frontline health workers and including those women in response planning.
- Protecting girls and women from rising gender-based violence by assisting countries with specific interventions like increasing the number and capacity of shelters.
- Safeguarding critical humanitarian programs for girls and women in contexts where health systems may already be overwhelmed or non-existent.
- Including policy measures to alleviate the paid and unpaid care burden and better redistribute it between women and men, and between families and public services.
It is imperative that not only the UN, but all governments and governing agencies, follow these recommendations.
Not present in these measures, however, and key to a successful pandemic response with a gender lens, are recommendations for COVID-19 response and recovery funds. Women Deliver calls for funding plans to:
- Include a gender marker to demarcate whether aid activities target gender equality.
- Build an inclusive funding governance structure that champions gender equality advocates and organizations.
- Involve and fund local women’s organizations to ensure that response and recovery efforts meet the unique needs of each constituency.
- Protect and continue programming that is fundamental to advancing gender equality. It is critical that existing and future financial interventions that will help curb COVID-19’s spread and support economic recovery apply a gender lens.
- Prioritize investments in strengthening health systems alongside the provision of Primary Health Care and Universal Health Care. This will be essential to ensure health systems can withstand shocks and deliver health for all, in all circumstances.
In this unprecedented global crisis, it is paramount that every effort during and after the COVID-19 pandemic aims to rebuild a stronger and more equal society. Gender equality and girls’ and women’s health and rights cannot be on pause as the world responds to and recovers from COVID-19. A gender-equal world results in better health, more access to health care and education, and more opportunities for economic independence and participation in public life for girls and women all over the world. With the support of partners and advocates, Women Deliver will continue to advocate that all COVID-19 response plans and investments address the gender impacts of this pandemic and safeguard the health and rights of girls and women everywhere.
About Women Deliver: Women Deliver is a leading global advocate that champions gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. Our advocacy drives investment – political and financial – in the lives of girls and women worldwide. We harness evidence and unite diverse voices to spark commitment to gender equality. And we get results. Anchored in sexual and reproductive health, we advocate for the rights of girls and women across every aspect of their lives. We know that investing in girls and women will deliver progress for all.