Women’s leadership under threat by pandemic: UN

The latest data published UN Women, an entity of the world body working for the empowerment of women, shows that women’s rights and leadership are under threat, even more due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Current projections show that gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. This year’s International Women’s Day rings the alarm on rising threats to gender equality and highlights the need to build back better for a more gender-equal future, Xinhua news agency quoted UN Women as saying in a statement on Monday.

“We must remember 2021 as a global inflection point on gender equality, a year when women’s rights and leadership accelerated irreversibly. The Generation Equality Forum will be a catalyst for lasting change.

“A more equal world will be a different world. More inclusive decisions will be made, different voices heard, and different solutions created,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was quoted as saying in the statement.

The Generation Equality Forum is a civil society-centred, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France.

Kicking-off in Mexico City on March 29-31, and culminating in Paris in June, the forum will secure a set of concrete, ambitious, and transformative commitments to achieve immediate and irreversible progress toward gender equality.

The landmark effort will bring together governments, corporations and change to define and announce ambitious investments and policies.

This International Women’s Day comes at a moment where evidence is growing that the pandemic is having a disproportionate and severe impact on women’s rights, from their role as frontline healthcare workers often without adequate protection, to the loss of jobs as the informal economy shrinks, and the alarming spike in domestic violence and unpaid care burden, according to the UN Women statement.

Major facts are that only three countries globally have 50 per cent or more women in Parliament, and the same amount have no women in Parliament at all; women under 30 years make up less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians globally; and women parliamentarians reported in one survey that they experienced nearly twice as much exposure to torture, ill treatment and acts of violence compared to men.

Research shows that when women are in power, overlooked policy issues, such as ending violence against women, childcare services and healthcare get more attention; there is often less government corruption and political parties are more likely to work together.

For example, in Liberia during her first term as President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf introduced a specialised court to prosecute violence against women; Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both strengthened family leave provisions and increased funding for early childhood education.

The Generation Equality Forum’s Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership has developed plans to achieve gender parity in executive and legislative positions in 50 countries by 2026.