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IWF Effect of Pandemic on Women UN Women

Hand in hand for women now!
The Impact of the Pandemic on Women

Firstly, few facts from the introduction:

Covid is costing women their jobs.

Women account for 39% of the global employment but it is estimated that during the pandemic women will suffer 54% of the global job losses.

Especially hard hit will be the 60% of the women who work in the informal economy. They earn less and they are at greater risk of falling into poverty. Many make their living through social interactions in public places like markets limited by the pandemic. There were millions of women whose work is unpaid, and the value of this labor is now more apparent than ever before. They care for the children, the elderly and the sick. The schools closed and the hospitals overwhelmed their numbers and the number of hours they work are increasing.

In health care women make up 70% of the work force and are ensuring that lives are saved every day. However, the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is increased not only by their work, but because their personal protective equipment, when they can get it, is often sized for men.

As health services are strained, women’s health services have become more scarce, it is estimated that in low- and middle-income countries cutbacks could claim the lives of 113,00 women and result in 7 million unintended pregnancies. Some countries are reporting a doubling of domestic violence. They blame the increased stress created by Covid and lockdowns which make too many women and girls become captives of their abusers.

The women are the face of hope. As they lead in their countries, their communities, and their organizations they are showing how to be resilient and protect those around them in a crisis.

At the IWF conference, in a session called The Impact of the Pandemic on Women, presented by TELUS of Canada, Sandy McIntosh of TELUS and a member of IWF Canada, interviewed Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Undersecretary of General of UN and the Executive Director of UN Women. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is a founding member of IWF South Africa and was she was inducted at the Hall of Fame of IWF in 2016 and she was the deputy president of her native country, South Africa.

From Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s address I have noted the below:

Disproportionate impact

Women are less likely to die of Covid 19 then men, however they are bearing a disproportionate impact as a result of this pandemic. The Covid is eroding the gains and opportunities in equality women have gained and reversing the positive developments in the equality for women. Covid has a particularly harsh impact on women.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

On the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, when it was enacted, it was a moment of joy for all the women all over the world. But the pandemic is not gender natural. In the last 20 years in particular we have made some progress on addressing poverty. With the pandemic, now, 41 million women and girls have been falling back into poverty. This is a significant setback. Another area of concern is the area of girls’ education. In the last 25 years progress was made in girls’ education notwithstanding the fact that we still had challenges. With school closures, girls have been falling off the schools and not going back to school and being forced into alien marriages. This is also a significant setback. We do not need to accept this, and we still need to rescue this situation.

2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals

2030 Agenda was chosen carefully, and it can be ambitious, and it is made complicated by the pandemic. They will still be our goals; we cannot rethink the goals. The change can be exponential, and we have technology now that can drive the things at a pace we have never seen before and much faster than before and still bring the change. During the pandemic we see people do extraordinary things and find unimaginable solutions. We need to call for political will and commitment and rise up to the occasion. We can certainly neither give up nor rethink sustainable development goals.

Why are women hit harder?

Majority of women are in the developing world are in the informal sector, they do not have insurance, they do not have secure jobs and they do not have savings. And with the pandemic they have lost everything they have. They do not have back up. Government aids or the fiscal stimulus need to be targeted at these women who have lost their jobs. Women are usually working in the service sector, which is highly affected as well as the tourism sector and hospitality sector and they all have been significantly affected. ILO reports that most of the jobs lost will be women’s jobs and these jobs will never be recreated or needed. Women do not have skills that will not be easily adapted to what will be needed after the pandemic. There is an urgency for us to retool women and reuse the government interventions for these women or alternatively women need to make better use of government interventions so that women are not forced into lifelong poverty.

Additional unpaid care burden on women

Day care and caregiving have been cut or schools are closed, and the children are coming home. And the burden of care disproportionately falls on women and now women are at home and the children are at home. Women at the day care facilities were paid and now they are out of their jobs and women’s care work at home is unenumerated, unpaid and unrecognized. When the daycare centers are closed children come home and women at the care centers have lost their jobs. Sick are sent home to be cared due to lack of beds and the risks at the hospitals. Women have additional burden and have additional unpaid, unrecognized, and unremunerated care work. This is not sustainable. It is the women and girls caring for education and health care that takes place at homes. These are public goods. Governments need to plan for and provide education, hospitalization, and the care industry. To pushing these down to women is not a sustainable solution.

Girls need not to face digital divide

Girls are facing a digital divide. There is a clear digital divide between girls and boys. When we are bound to have online solutions or when a device enters a home, that device either goes to men or boys and the girls are left behind.

Women in conflict zones

Women in conflict zones are generally women without homes. They have no food on the table for their families. Women in refugee camps need shelter during the pandemic. They do not have homes and if they cannot find a shelter the problem gets bigger. Women are usually the ones that are protecting their families either younger or older or sick. They need to provide for food and bring them to the table for their families. Ceasefire was the solution proposed by the Secretary General for the conflict areas.

Violence during the pandemic

Worldwide when women were trapped at their homes with their partners or their imprisoners and they have faced 40% higher violence. Some governments have increased their services against violence. For example, they established new hotlines, or they gave new resources to the relevant NGO’s. These accomplishments need to continue even after the pandemic. According to a WHO report 7 out of 10 countries have reported a disruption in the supply chain of contraceptives. That is, supply chain of contraceptives has been broken down. It is expected that children will be born. Due to this 7 million, mostly unwanted, pregnancies are observed, and these children will be born. Safe beds are unfortunately not available. Governments need to be well prepared for the next pandemic.

Women in public health care

Majority of health workers are women. Pandemic is left on the shoulders of women. If we did not have the courage and determination women have shown to save lives, it would be much worser outcomes. There are many stories, and these stories need to come out. Many 19-year-old women went to Wuhan to fight with something they have never seen before. We have not yet paid any tribute to these women and listen to their stories yet.

Countries that have done comparably better have either women leaders or feminist prime ministers

Countries that have done well are the countries led by women. Women leaders have seen the total picture. New Zealand is an example. In India, in the state of Kerala, the person in charge of the pandemic was the women health and social welfare minister. In Germany leadership was strong and they managed pushing back successfully to have the pandemic under control. In Namibia, the young prime minister has handed the responsibility to a woman deputy minister to be in charge of the fight with the pandemic. Women forecast by their hearth; they make less politicized decisions, they consult with everybody and look at the whole picture. And women act with care instincts. Taiwan as well did a great job. Sandy McIntosh said that “I was hoping that you would mention Canada as well among the successful fighters with the pandemic.” In Canada they have a feminist prime minister, and they have many women in leadership roles and many decision-making points are trusted to women. They are doing the right things and listening to what the scientists are telling and therefore Canada is doing comparably better. Women’s leadership is important. They have done comparably well.

Checklist for governments

UN Women has developed a 10-points checklist for the governments to develop gender-based solutions and cut and build back better. It is posted under the UN women web site:

Building Back

There needs to be a cut to build back better. A sustainable solution against violence is needed. Women entrepreneurs need to rebuild their businesses and governments need to encourage to rebuild industries that women were working in. What has worked in other countries and what has performed better is being studied. The exchange of information is encouraged, and roundtables are organized for this purpose.

We must build back what has been lost and reestablish the opportunities

This pandemic needs to be turned into an opportunity and be a catalyst for change. Firstly, from the digital infrastructure side, which was so much needed, the opportunities are there and quite apparent now. I also want to see an opportunity on the digital infrastructure for women and girls. Quicker, sharper, and better solutions are observed as a response against violence. Now we understand that the earlier responses and reactions were quite slow. We have witnessed the leadership of girls. They are now taking their own initiative. When a girl does not come back to school, 7-year-old girls are speaking up and asking about their friends. Did the girls who have dropped out of schooling get trafficked or did they get married? 7 years old girls are speaking up and the resilience is there. For this reason, leadership in girls’ education needs to be protected.

The opportunities to build back better exists but falling back from what has been achieved is also true unfortunately.

Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has expected to make a speech at the UN women conference, this year, in 2020, the UN Women Conference was however cancelled, and she made a sincere delivery at the “Impact of Pandemic on Women” Session of IWF 2020 Conference: “Leading in a Disrupted World” and she left her audience with a lot of inspiration.

Further, she conveyed her hearth held tribute, and described her feelings as devastated, about the news regarding passing of Dr. Vuyo Mahlati, the President elect of the IWF Global.

Published inArticles