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During the ongoing global pandemic, existing exclusions and challenges to women’s participation in decision-making have been put under the microscope.
Identifying women’s active roles in addressing the Covid-19 crisis and the lessons learnt from these experiences are key for paving the path to an inclusive and gender-aware recovery. Lessons learnt from successful post-conflict inclusive recovery may also provide keys to improving socio-economic responses and transitions out of the global economic crisis provoked by the pandemic. We are interested in where women’s leadership has made a difference and why and what lessons we can draw from post-conflict economic recovery to help ensure a more inclusive response.
Please answer the following questions:
- What examples are there of local women’s groups participating directly in the response to Covid-19? What difference has that made?
- Globally women make up more than 70% of health care workers; what has been done to support these critical workers?
- What lessons can we take from how women’s participation in post conflict recovery has changed local economies to help formulate future economic responses?
- What lessons can we take from local peace-building to help ensure an inclusive response to Covid 19?
- Could a global focus on the vulnerability of workers in the informal sector, especially women, help improve their situation? What decision-making processes might make a difference?
- How can technology help? What can be learnt from the use of e-payments to reach the most vulnerable?
- Initial surveys suggest that women’s unpaid care burden has increased globally and across socio-economic divides under the response to the pandemic. Are there any good practices that demonstrate a more egalitarian response?
Week 6 discussion room summary by Rachel Dore-Weeks (Head of UN Women Lebanon)
Thank you all for another interesting and inspiring week in this discussion group. We heard from colleagues of challenges and successes they have seen and lead, who are working in Niger, Armenia, Syria, the US, Lebanon, Sweden, Mauritius, China, Guinea-Bissa, India, Zambia and Jordan. In your writing you echoed sentiments many of the important threads and issues we have heard throughout the last 6 weeks, while raising new key issues around recovery.
ICT: the importance of using technology in new ways was also emphasized, and ideas shared on how to address the gender digital divide – a challenge that remains.
Participation and Communication: The discussion illustrated that Governments are working hard in many contexts to bring women’s voices into the national COVID response, but that this is not happening systematically enough. That the response will never reach women adequately unless women are engaged in high-level decision making on COVID response planning and roll out, and recovery planning, while also being engaged at the local level.
Participants reiterated the need of working with women rooted in local communities to transmit messaging on issues of COVID protection and response, given the trust and knowledge these women have, in order to increase the effectiveness of COVID response work. These women can also serve as communication loops – not only feeding information to communities, but also feeding their needs back to local and national level decision makers. Examples were given of local government officials and local NGO actors leading on this work – putting themselves at risk to better engage with their communities on the health crisis.
The Nexus and Building Back Better: We were reminded of the important link between crisis response and women, peace and security, and in the need for investing in women economically and politically. As countries across the Middle East are affected by rising insecurity, in part due to the socio-economic impact of COVID, peace and security work must be front loaded into response and recovery work. This connects well to points made in the first week about ensuring we do economic recovery ‘right’ for women – that too often micro finance and other such initiatives that are applied rapidly during and after crisis not only are not effective in their efforts to alleviate poverty, but can create cycles of debt that go on to deepen vulnerabilities in the longer term. We must keep calling forinvestment in the restructuring of economies to make them work better for social justice and for gender equality, so that long term women are more resilient to economic shocks.
Commenters noted the differential impact of COVID-19 across countries, with impact often determined by indicators such as the strength of national protection systems and democratic institutions. Commenters noted that countries with substantial investment in social protection, including universal health care and strong democratic institutions, fared better across the board – and the gendered impact of COVID was less pronounced in these countries. This links to the point made throughout the last 6 weeks on how we work now to restructure economies; the response should not only be handing out aid equally to men and women, but to redefining the shape of our societies post COVID, to address the challenges COVID exposed. This means that in our advocacy we must be calling for a scale up in investment in social protection and for universal health care; we must try and ensure that countries that implement austerity measures do so in ways where spending on health and education is not affected. UN Women in Lebanon recently issued a policy note that sets out what a post-COVID gender responsive recovery pathway could look like: https://arabstates.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/06/gender-responsive-recovery-in-lebanon. Following the lead of Hawaii (who issued a feminist COVID response plan), feminist tools and frameworks must be used to that these ideas and priorities are integrated into COVID recovery frameworks.