On 22 April 2020, the International Gender Champions network held its first session of a new webinar series entitled "COVID-19 & Gender Equality: Living up to the Challenge".

This webinar series provided an opportunity to International Gender Champions and their teams to better navigate the immense choices facing decision-makers in light of the COVID-19 crisis and its disproportionate negative impact on women. Throughout the series, participants discussed and explored how to embed better policies and practices, both within their organisations and in their programmatic work.

The first session entitled "Respond, don't react: Gender-responsive programming in times of crisis" was opened by Mr. Martin Chungong (Secretary-General, Inter-parliamentary Union, Chair of the IGC Global Board) and moderated by Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland (Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York).

Some key takeaways from the panel discussion are highlighted below:

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Women need to be included in leadership and decision making around the crisis: “It is time to give women equal voice in shaping preparedness and response strategies”, the High Commissioner stated.

  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is currently engaged in collecting good practices from around the world that can be shared. These include, but are not limited to:

    1. Gender-sensitive economic incentives and relief packages

    2. Measures to address gender-based violence: declaring gender-based violence services as essential; alternative accommodation including paid hotel rooms; scaling up online, SMS, and telephone services; establishing contact points in supermarkets or pharmacies; increasing protection by law enforcement.

    3. Measures to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services such as the continued delivery of contraceptive pills to women.

  • A guidance on “COVID-19 and Women’s Human Rights” was also launched by the OHCHR to put human rights at the heart of the global response.

Ms. Katja Iversen, President/CEO, Women Deliver

  • Decision-makers also need to put women and girls at the heart of Covid-19 response and recovery through a gender lens.

  • To measure the application of a gender lens, a gender marker needs to be established. This will help ensure inclusive governance, promote women in leadership, invest in local recovery efforts, partner with and fund local women’s organisations, invest in comprehensive response and recovery.

  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights should be classified as essential services. Failing to regard it as such may cost more lives than those taken by Covid-19.

  • The best Covid-19 responses at the national level are often led by women.

  • Women Deliver launched an Open Letter to call on governments to apply a gender lens to Covid-19 preparedness, response and recovered.

Ms. Sabra Bano, Director, Gender Concerns International

  • In the short term, three things can be undertaken to respond to this crisis in a gender-responsive way: 1) Respect, recognition and resources for women’s organisations during times of crisis; 2) A dedicated, non-discriminatory fund to support these organisations; 3) Engaging international changemakers to support and strengthen partnerships

  • In the long term, a high-level international gender advisory body for planning during times of crisis should be established.

  • Gender Concerns International published a report on “Covid-19 Recovery and the Vitality of International Women Organisations” highlighting the needs for a gender-inclusive recovery response.

Over 140 participants dialed in across the six IGC hubs (Geneva, New York, Vienna, Nairobi, The Hague and Paris), including more than 30 Champions. The recording of the panel discussion is now available on Youtube.

Two other sessions were held on 29 April and 6 May 2020. More information can be found here.