BEIRUT: With fast spread of COVID-19, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.
The pandemic is challenging pre-existing inequalities, and exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems, which in turn amplifies the impact of the pandemic.
In an effort to address this particular issue, the United Nations issued a policy brief that focuses on exploring how women and girls’ lives are changing due to COVID-19.
The report outlines suggested priority measures to accompany both the immediate response and longer-term recovery efforts.
The policy brief emphasizes three cross-cutting priorities: Ensuring women’s equal representation in all COVID-19 response planning and decision-making, driving transformative change for equality by addressing the care economy (paid and unpaid,) and targeting women and girls in all efforts to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
According to the UN, the three cross-cutting priorities reflect the Secretary-General’s recent “Call to Action” on Human Rights, which singled out measures that, if pursued, would have a meaningful impact on the rights of women and girls. These measures have become more vital in the context of the pandemic.
The impact of COVID-19 across the global economy seems already profound, and the global recession will result in a prolonged dip in women’s incomes and labor force participation, with compounded impacts for women already living in poverty.
To address this issue, the UN brief suggests direct support to informal workers and women-led businesses, where financial support needs to target hard-hit women-led enterprises and businesses in feminized sectors with subsidized and state-backed loans, tax and social security payment deferrals and exemptions.
Health pandemics can make it more difficult for women and girls to receive treatment and health services. This is compounded by multiple or intersecting inequalities, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, age, race, geographic location, and sexual orientation, among others, which influences access and decision-making to critical health services and information about COVID-19.
Globally, women make up 70 percent of the health workforce and are more likely to be front-line health workers, especially nurses, midwives, and community health workers.
To address this issue, the UN suggests making provisions for standard health services to be continued, especially for sexual and reproductive health care, where particular attention needs to be paid to health care services for older women, gender-based violence survivors, as well as antenatal, postnatal care and delivery services, including emergency obstetric and newborn care.
Unpaid Care Work
With children out of school, intensified care needs of older persons and ill family members, and overwhelmed health services, demands for care work in a COVID-19 world have intensified exponentially.
What measures are needed to build a gender-inclusive economic response and recovery?
UN suggests that immediate steps are needed to ensure that COVID-19 does not reverse the gender equality progress achieved in recent decades, in particular with regard to women’s participation in the labor force, and to expand and provide inclusive social protection for caregivers to mitigate the effects of the overload of unpaid care work.
Unfortunately, violence is not just on the battlefield. It is also in homes. Crowded homes, substance abuse, limited access to services and reduced peer support are exacerbating these conditions.
A way to respond to this crisis is through integrating prevention efforts and services to respond to violence against women into COVID-19 response plans.
Impacts in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings and on Human Rights
Disruptions to critical health, humanitarian and development programs can have life and death consequences where health systems may already be overwhelmed or largely non-existent.
The post-pandemic recovery will hopefully lead to an expansion of rights and participation of women in public affairs so that we are more resilient to future crises.
Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: [email protected]
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