By: Adriana Quiñones
Director, UN Women Liaison Office in Geneva
After navigating more than two years of a global pandemic, billions of people are now facing the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation. The fallout for women and girls has been severe. Two recent reports by UN Women draw lessons from COVID-19 for a world in turmoil and lay out a roadmap towards a more sustainable, resilient and gender-just future. Four immediate priority actions emerge from their findings:
- We must ensure women’s meaningful participation and leadership in crisis response and recovery.
Overall, countries with stronger democratic institutions, higher women’s representation in parliaments or stronger feminist movements adopted more gender-sensitive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic than countries without those features. Let’s commit collectively to listen more to women leaders, feminist movements and women’s rights organizations and ensure that they have both the space and the resources to carry out their crucial roles as advocates, watchdogs and service providers.
- To increase resilience to shocks, we must support the scale-up of gender-responsive social protection systems.
Prolonged and intersecting crises are testing the shock-responsiveness of social protection systems around the world. Countries with robust, gender-responsive policies and programmes are generally able to roll support out faster and more effectively. This was in large part a matter of resources. Despite important fiscal constraints, however, at least 15 countries extended social protection to informal workers, with special provisions for women in the informal economy. Financial and technical support must now focus on sustaining and expanding these efforts to support recovery and build resilience for the future.
- To harness digital technologies for gender equality, we must close gaps in access and use.
During COVID-19, digital technologies sustained feminist activism online while also enabling policy innovations and rapid support roll-out. At the same time, persistent gender gaps in access to digital and financial infrastructure continued to exclude many women, particularly those from marginalized groups. The 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2023 will focus on technology, providing a critical opportunity for identifying, adopting and implementing policies that help bridge these gaps and ensure that women are not left behind during future crises.
- Evidence-based policies and programmes require more and better data on gender during crises and beyond
The pandemic spurred innovations in data collection, such as UN Women’s use of non-traditional data sources – facilitated by partnerships with governments, mobile phone operators and market research companies – to conduct over 75 rapid gender assessments. In several countries, these data were critical to build support for policies and programmes that responded to the needs of women and girls. Going forward, let’s commit to find ways to improve the data that our organizations collect and rely on – from sex-disaggregated official statistics to gender indicators in our monitoring and evaluation frameworks. From where we stand today, the road towards achieving gender equality looks very rocky indeed. UN Women’s analysis demonstrates how concrete actions today can protect the precious gains that have been made and forge forward to create a better, more equal future for all.
Turkana county is one of the most arid areas of Kenya. Several years of inadequate rainfall have pushed coping capacities to the brink. Women not only struggle to collect enough water, but when food is scarce, they eat less than men. Photo: UN Women/Kennedy Okoth.