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Emergency Preparedness Requires Gender-Responsive Responses to Reduce the Burden of Care, Violence and Economic Insecurity for Women: UN Women and UNDP Monitoring Report

As the overlapping effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a worsening climate emergency and geopolitical conflicts threaten gender equality and women’s rights, an analysis based on new global data provides specific recommendations to governments to ensure that their economic recovery and emergency preparedness strategies are gender sensitive, integrated and resilient.

“Countries with stronger social protection systems and public services perform better on gender equality and have therefore weathered the storms of recent years better. But the world remains in turmoil. We must build on the many policy innovations we have seen in all regions during the pandemic and redouble our efforts to ensure that women are included in decision-making in times of crisis,” said the Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Bahous. “This report shows that when women lead, everyone benefits from a more inclusive and effective crisis response, and from more resilient economies and societies, now and in the future.”

Nearly 5,000 policies were reviewed over a two-year period by the UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, the most comprehensive global repository of gender-responsive government responses to the pandemic. The tool identifies how global policymakers have responded to the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, which continue to disproportionately affect women.

In 196 of the 226 countries surveyed, at least one gender-sensitive measure has been adopted, according to the new report released today, “Government Responses to COVID-19: Lessons on Gender Equality for a Changing World.”

Countries with higher proportions of elected women, regardless of national income, have adopted more policies and budgeting that integrate gender considerations. Countries with strong democracies, strong women’s movements or a high proportion of women in parliament adopted an average of five more gender-sensitive measures than countries that did not.

However, even in countries where representation is less than equal, women political leaders have demanded that their voice be heard.

Fiji, for example, activated its existing crisis response mechanism to respond to natural disasters to adopt 14 landmark measures to alleviate the scourge of violence against women and girls during the pandemic.

The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in Tanzania has championed gender-sensitive public information campaigns and targeted public funds to women-specific initiatives. Egypt’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Hala El-Said, chaired a task force that aimed to determine how to reduce the impact of the pandemic on informal work, where women’s employment is concentrated.

“Rebuilding women’s economic security and securing their rights is a key priority for governments and the United Nations, including UNDP,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. This report shows what governments can achieve in their response to the crisis when they prioritize gender equality.

Women’s collective action has also boosted a country’s gender sensitivity. Feminist civil society groups have both influenced the immediate response in their countries and provided evidence and data to drive a feminist vision of post-pandemic recovery and transformation.

Ireland and Chile were among the countries where activists not only took to the streets to demand government action, but also contributed to feminist plans and gender budget assessments of legislative and executive discourse.

Adding to the economic consequences of the pandemic for women everywhere is the heavier burden of unpaid work. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, women around the world performed more than three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Today, increased inequality in the time spent caring for children, the elderly and other family members is forcing many women out of the paid labor market.

There are 19.7 million fewer paid jobs for women globally than before March 2020, compared to 10.2 million fewer jobs for men.

These calamitous reversals of women’s economic opportunity will mean that 388 million women will live in extreme poverty by 2022, widening an already cavernous gender poverty gap.

Countries must do more to recognize the value of domestic work performed by women, developing better social protection for those with family responsibilities as the backbone of a more integrated and resilient economy.

The tracker’s analysis of nearly 5,000 metrics demonstrates that countries tend to work within their existing systems and structures when crises hit. This new report offers a great opportunity to advocate for improved, gender-responsive social protections and ensure meaningful participation of women to identify solutions to acute and chronic challenges that leave no one behind.

Find more in-depth analysis here.

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