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:

  1. What examples are there of local women’s groups participating directly in the response to Covid-19? What difference has that made? 
  2. Globally women make up more than 70% of health care workers; what has been done to support these critical workers? 
  3. What lessons can we take from how women’s participation in post conflict recovery has changed local economies to help formulate future economic responses? 
  4. What lessons can we take from local peace-building to help ensure an inclusive response to Covid 19?
  5. 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?
  6. How can technology help? What can be learnt from the use of e-payments to reach the most vulnerable? 
  7. 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? 

Comments (27)

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

It has been only four days in this six-week online discussion and we have already had examples from the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the DRC, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, and the refugee camps in Jordan. Colleagues have published resources, like this survey from UN Women Jordan (https://jordan.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/rapid-assessment-of-the-impact-of-covid19-on-vulnerable-women-in-jordan) or this study from Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (https://giwps.georgetown.edu/what-can-the-wps-index-tell-us-about-global-risks-like-covid-19/). I will add another one, a rapid assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on WPS practitioners in the Indo-Pacific region, conducted by Monash University: https://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/2209496/COVID19-and-WPS-Research-Brief_FINAL.pdf. We have heard examples of good practice in using technology, from Whatsapp groups and social media campaigns (like Together and Equal in Lebanon or Story Kitchen's Katha Corona in Nepal) to Blockchain technology for direct cash assistance to female headed households, survivors of gender-based violence, women workers in the informal sector who have lost their income, and other categories of at-risk women in the refugee camps and host communities in Jordan. And we have of course heard many more examples of how this crisis is severely impacting women negatively, from loss of employment, schooling, or access to a range of services, including reproductive healthcare, to increased burden of care, food insecurity, and vulnerability to GBV, as well as some data on their exclusion from decision-making committees and task forces dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. On top of all this, colleagues have also shared interesting policy recommendations: paying attention to the role of social affairs ministers (58 percent of which are women), responsible for social welfare schemes that have elevated importance at this time; adjusting National Action Plans on 1325 to the current crisis; redoubling efforts to mainstream gender into the public health sector; relying on women's organizations working on peacebuilding as key actors in the delivery of health assistance and prevention awareness; and finally insisting that international organizations (e.g. the World Bank and others) demand that a percentage of women be included in countries' task force/committees on economic planning if they are asking for assistance. Keep the examples and ideas coming!

 

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Welcome to this online discussion. I work in UN Women's Peace and Security team and will be moderating this group during the first of six weeks. Last month, I helped organize a meeting of the Security Council's Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security on this same topic, and we will make sure that the findings that emerge from this discussion reach Council members and other policymakers. I look forward to your comments and will summarize the main points raised at the end of this week. 

Ana Lukatela

Hello Pablo! Hello colleauges! What a great topic for discussion; so pleased to participate and cannot wait to read other contributions. I want to share an example of using technology for reaching vulnerable women with cash assistance during the crisis.

UN Women Jordan conducted a rapid survey of vulnerable Syrian refugee and Jordanian women on the impact of COVID-19 on health, economic security, gender based violence, education access, time use and other issues. The results are available in the link. https://jordan.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/rapid-assessment-of-the-impact-of-covid19-on-vulnerable-women-in-jordan  The findings demonstrate an important and concerning relationship between increased risks of gender based violence, food insecurity and economic pressures of the COVID-19 crisis. A priority for UN Women thus became cash assistance for vulnerable women.

UN Women runs four Oasis centres in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps and eight Oasis centres in host communities run in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development. More information on Oasis centers and the services they provide are available on UN Women Jordan's website. UN Women provides daily cash for work opportunities to more than 400 Syrian refugee women each month in camps and 330 Syrian refugee and vulnerable Jordanian women in host communities. The Oasis model combines income generation with GBV protection and prevention services and civic engagement training and opportunities. At the start of the COVID-19 crisis and with the full economic shutdown and movement restrictions imposed by the Government of Jordan UN Women quickly shifted its cash for work programming to direct cash assistance for vulnerable women, including female headed households, women survivors of GBV, women workers in the informal sector who had lost their income, and other categories of at-risk women.

Since June 2019 UN Women has partnered with WFP on a more efficient, secure and innovative cash disbursement method using blockchain technology. This approach allowed UN Women to be one of the few humanitarian actors in Jordan that was able to seamlessly and remotely ensure cash assistance continued to reach Syrian refugee women in the camps even during the COVID-19 crisis mandatory quarantine period when all beneficiary and UN staff movement was restricted. Through an iris-scanning system used in WFP-Supermarkets, which directly links to each woman’s account on UN Women’s blockchain node, Syrian refugees could continue receiving cash and purchasing food and essential supplies for their families safely. UN Women’s monitoring has demonstrated that the blockchain technology has allowed women increased control over their cash entitlement as the iris-scan identify verification ensures only the woman herself can withdraw the cash from the system, which ensures security and accountability for the account holder. To date more than 500 women have benefited from this new approach in the refugee camps and have been safely accessing their salaries and funds through the collaboration between UN Women Jordan and the WFP Building Blocks blockchain. More information also available here: https://jordan.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/april/feature-technology-to-assist-refugees-during-covid-19-lockdown Additionally, the use of WhatsApp groups supported by UN Women and with WHO and UNHCR verified data have proved very important in communicating risk of COVID-19 among vulnerable women who are responsible for the care of children and the elderly and ill in a pandemic situation, as well as supporting women to engage with the community and be recognized as leaders with access to important information in a time of crisis. We are planning further case studies on how remote communication methods used by women were a key part of the crisis response. 

Take care!

Aisling Swaine

Hi Pablo - thanks for moderating this, great topic for discussion.

 

hi Ana! Really great to hear all that UN Women have been doing in Jordan. It’s so impressive how you were able to rapidly do assessments and make adjustments to programming in response to the pandemic. I had read the assessment and great to see it here.
Also, experience from other previous outbreaks, such as recent outbreak of Ebola In the DRC have shown how women’s organizations have played a critical role in dissemination correct information to communities. Women’s organization adjust the focus of their work - so adaptable and flexible to new challenges. The wassap group idea really important here! 

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Ana, the example of quickly switching from cash-for-work to cash assistance to Syrian and Jordanian women in the refugee camps and in host communities in Jordan is excellent. It answers directly one of our  questions on the use of technology (in this case blockchain technology) and specifically e-payments to vulnerable populations. More broadly, I wonder if colleagues have other examples of how can technology help in times like these. So far, in women, peace and security circles, the overarching concern is that as decision-making and negotiations move online and onto digital platforms, women's exclusion will be even more pronounced (digital gap, burden of care, unequal access to information). In the Security Council, for example, we have already seen that women's participation from civil society from conflict-affected countries has plummeted in these first weeks of virtual meetings.  

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Aisling, the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are very relevant. I have also seen colleagues cite the lessons of the Zika outbreak in the Americas, and the impact of harmful social norms limiting women's sexual and reproductive autonomy. In the Ebola crisis, we have several assessments showing the impact of quarantines in women's economic activity and increased vulnerability to gender-based violence - both concerns that are very present at the moment. More strikingly, the assessments showed that men's economic activity quickly returned to pre-crisis levels once the measures subsided but women's did not. Similarly, we have assessments of the thousands of excess maternal deaths that happened because of decreased access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, another issue that should be in everyone's minds now, as diverting resources (e.g. midwives) in countries with high maternal mortality (e.g. South Sudan, Somalia) to fight COVID-19 could result in many more deaths from childbirth complications. But most importantly, we learned that women took a leading role in the response in West Africa - not just as frontline healthcare workers, but as trusted actors in the communication and dissemination of preventative messages and measures. And many of the countries hit by Ebola have been using similar protocols to respond to this pandemic. It was striking to me that in the first weeks, whenever I saw media articles that highlighted the role of women, it was often women activists we knew from peacebuilding circles - women's organizations that typically work on peace and security, but that immediately shifted to making and distributing masks and soap and communicating the right messages to prevent the spread. It reminded me of something your colleague Christine Bell says about the importance of trusted mid-level peacebuilders in situations like these: in conflict-affected countries, the delivery of healthcare is so fraught by the dynamics of the conflict itself -not least because of the destruction of healthcare facilities but because of the cruel politics of war- that the government may lack access or the trust of a target population, and meanwhile international humanitarians have limited access due to the restricted mobility imposed by the measures. Women's organizations, prominent among these local mid-level peacebuilders, become a lifeline. 

John Ede

Greetings to you all and thank you for having me here.

It is highly regrettable that key decisions are often made for women not by women especially is developing countries where women participation in public life is very low.

As is it mostly the case in Africa,  particularly in Nigeria, where majority of decisions decisions are made for women. Women and girls often start from the place of gross disadvantages, because of the long standing local traditions and cultural norms that puts women under the control of the man. Say for instance, women are not allowed into the presence of traditional rulers, religious houses often are demarcated to reduce interaction between men and women. The political leaders agreed to 35 percent appointment should go to the women, this is far from reality. 

In order to improve this situation, in our organization and our programs, we ensure that women are in the forefronts of planning, implementation and post evaluation. And lessons learnt, we see a marked improvement in the local response where women are able to access places that make counterparts have difficulties accessing, leading to greater reach. 

Wherever women lead local response, we have greater participation and increase in community participation.

Emergencies and crisis further puts women are risks and we work with women in the ground through their networks and groups for community participation.

The Covid-19 response has further exposed the need for local trainings and capacity building of women and girls at local levels to improve response. But it heightens their risks of we do not provide adequate protection system that protects them from been used as shields and slaves by armed groups or non-state actors.

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you, John. We are seeing this inequality in decision-making in several conflict-affected countries. I think that in Libya, for example, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Committee does not include women, and all the crisis committees and groups that have been set up have very limited participation of women. Last I heard, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the government-appointed committee to respond to the pandemic is composed of 12 members, and 10 of them are men. In Yemen, the emergency management committee set up in Aden consists of 7 members and only one of them is a woman. Sadly, we have similar examples (and worse!) in some of the developed countries too. Conversely, this morning we heard some positive news from Mali: the elections went ahead and women's representation in parliament is set to jump from under 10 percent to almost 30 percent, and the signatory parties to the agreement committed to adding a few more women to the bodies monitoring the implementation of the agreement. 

Sama Shrestha

Dear Pablo,

Greetings from Nepal!

The fifth GiHA Task Team meeting was held on May 11, focusing on the opportunities that the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) can offer to address women’s leadership, sustaining peace and social cohesion. Vice Chair of the CEDAW Committee, Bandana Rana, stressed the need to adapt the National Action Plan Phase-II on WPS to accommodate the challenges of COVID-19 and for the Government to swiftly endorse the plan. The NAP is currently being reviewed by the Cabinet.

There is a continued need for psychosocial support to excluded and vulnerable groups to cope with the shocks related to loss of livelihood, food insecurity, increased violence and care burden. This also includes conflict victims, a group that was already facing severe stress before the pandemic broke out.  

Conflict victims’ highlighted the lack of access to health treatment, including psychosocial support services. Representatives also noted that support services have not been accessed due to fear of stigmatization i.e. being identified as a victim/survivor of conflict related sexual violence. The Conflict Victims Women National Network has established a relief fund to support members unable to access the relief provided by the government. Trauma amongst conflict victims could also be triggered due to the heavy presence and involvement of armed forced in the COVID-19 response.

The rise in hate speech is leading to an erosion of social ties and the collapse of connection and confidence between individuals and communities in Saptari and Sarlahi.

With the expected increase of domestic violence against women and girls during the lockdown, CSO representatives requested the government to review the Domestic Violence Act to ensure justice to victims/survivors of violence.

Several initiatives to showcase the experiences of women responding to COVID-19 have been initiated, such as Story Kitchen’s “Katha Corona” campaign on social media.

best
Sama on behalf of Nepal Country office

 

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you for this update, Sama. It is a good sign that the national action plans on women, peace and security are being reviewed to see how they can be adjusted or applied to the current context. It would be interesting to see if this results in women being an active part in decision-making about the COVID-19 response at both national and local levels, and whether gender considerations are in any way reflected in the delivery of relief, including from the World Bank. I still remember all the conversations about gender issues in the wake of the response to the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and how at some point there were only two women out of 95 members in the Central Reconstruction Advisory Council, even though women had been the most affected. I hope it is different this time!

Sheela

Greetings to the group from Sri Lanka..!

Thanks for initiating this dialogue which is very timely to secure the role of women in development.

COVID-19 has shown some positive signs in improving the decision-making opportunities for women.   Here in Sri Lanka, we see some women members in the task force in responding to the pandemic.  Also, in hospitals, women play a leading role as nurses and care workers.  Though one can argue this is the traditional caring role of women, if we engage with them, hopefully, we can take this to the next level of influencing the decision-making process.   

Women's involvement in the dialogue in economic development is hard to be seen though they are a larger section of the society that has been affected by the pandemic.  The work from home policy practicing around the world has put greater pressure on female employees.  When at home, they are expected to carry out the household chores – now has become double due to all family members at home (children/husband) - plus the demands of the employment.  For example, a friend of mine who is a teacher now has to attend to her husband and children who are at home on a daily basis while attending to her online lessons for her students.   This responsibility doubles-up when handling technology that is totally new to her.   At the same time, there is a big percentage of self-employed females who have lost their income due to the new situation, e.g. – beauty salons, small scale traders who sell cooked eatables as a livelihood.  What is the place women get in the government COVID – 19 economic relief packages is not known.  In some countries, women’s legal status prevents them from receiving these benefits. When bigger plans get the priority, these small business holders might not receive due attention.   Therefore, international organizations working on policy formulation and implementation should insist on countries to include a percentage of women in their task force/committees on economic planning. 

Another area of concern for women’s wellbeing is the psychosocial support getting from society.  Our organization just started a psychosocial support program for people disturbed due to the challenges of COVID-19.  According to the calls received so far more than 60% of responders were females.  That shows the amount of pressure women have to endure due new situation.  Government policies should address these issues in all their planning processes.      

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you for this very informative update from Sri Lanka, Sheela, and for the good work that your organization is doing. I just wanted to reiterate one of the recommendations that you explain here: that international organizations (e.g. the World Bank and others) should insist on countries to include a percentage of women in their task force/committees on economic planning. The consequences of not doing so - as you well note - are very serious for women and girls and everyone's hope for recovery. Finally, one of our questions was whether we have any good practice in a more egalitarian distribution of the burden of care. You provide many examples that are illustrative of the dominant trend: that women's unpaid care burden, already one of the chief obstacles to equality, is increasing dramatically. Recently I heard Nahla Valji, gender advisor of the UN Secretary-General, discuss this in relation to the current pandemic. We already say that women do three times more work in the home than men as a global average, but in countries this is more like six or seven times more. Borrowing from her words, we already know that this is at the heart of the motherhood penalty, wage inequality, structural biases in recruitment and promotion of women and jobs, and women's participation in public life, to name a few, and the pandemic is only making it worse. I'm hoping we find ways or examples of how to flip this: that the pandemic somehow makes this burden more obvious and less invisible and help promote policies that help share this burden more fairly and value it economically more fairly as well. I know that there are some good campaigns out there, such as Lebanon's "Together and Equal" that are very timely now. 

Rehab Al-Sanabani

Greetings from Yemen!

Thank you for discussing this critical aspect which is crucial to the success of all COVID-19 response interventions.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WHO’s rapid response and surveillance team, UNDP Yemen is developing protocols and conflict and gender sensitive messages to be included in ongoing public information campaign. Some of the radio messages used in the campaign indicate the importance of the participation of women in the decision making and its importance to define and address gender issues during the COVID-19 such as the continuity of the family planning and the reproductive health services. 

Moreover, Yemen CO will provide knowledge and skills to governmental officials to develop gender action plans for national health crisis response to COVID-19 and address the gender impact of disease outbreak considering how to address structural inequalities. This will ensure that Public health sector will integrate gender issues while planning, implementing and evaluation its response to COVID-19 and that women will be consulted and engaged in the planning, response and recovery phase.

Yemen CO is training and providing third party service providers, local youth and women’s organisations and targeted communities with awareness raising and basic preventive materials and emergency kits, including personal protection equipment. This will empower and enable male/female youth and women's organizations to play greater role in the response to COVID-19 and to present their views from the local context.

Other activities are being developed to empower women and enable them to play greater role in decision-making to ensure their issues have been integrated well in the response to COVID-19. 

 

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you for this update from Yemen, Rehab. It would be positive to see if the public information campaigns, the protocols, and the gender action plans actually result in the public health sector actually integrating gender considerations and women's participation in the planning and implementation of the response to COVID-19. In a country with the recent experience of epidemics like cholera, which have affected women disproportionately, where three-quarters of the population already need humanitarian health assistance and many of the health facilities have closed or been destroyed by the conflict, this work could not be more important. 

swedi bilombele
Adapting to climate change means reducing vulnerability to current and future climate risks. This vulnerability is essentially determined by the adaptive capacity of individuals. A specific climatic phenomenon, the pandemic, does not affect all members of the same community or even the same family in the same way, because some people have a greater capacity to manage a crisis than others. The inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power - as well as repressive cultural norms and rules - limits the ability of many to act on covid-19. This is especially true for women. This is why gender is a key factor in understanding vulnerability to climate change. With the confinement which is said to covid-19 the standards of the measures are taken by women to do so respects the strict distancing measures. As a result, women are often at greater risk from these phenomena. They have less power over the family budget and other goods due to not being able to control family resources and finances, have a legitimate right to go to the fields in search of wood fuel for cooking food is often limited for a peasant woman. Women's ability to manage risks, for example by diversifying crops, storing food or seeds, or saving, is limited. Faced with numerous restrictions / bans on mobility caused by confinement on the pandemic crisis of covid-19, women are forced to stay at home to take care of children, the sick or the elderly, and have negative impact on lower incomes and are more likely to be financially dependent socially, also there is a drop in the consumption of fossil fuels on climate change in the sense that many women in the cities do not drive their vehicles in condition confined to their homes. There is a decrease in vehicle traffic and fuel production and in consumption. Women participate in the adaptations by respecting the pandemic guidelines for covid-19 by applying the measures taken in the communities. Mobility is a key factor in accessing information and services. It is also essential to escape the dangers caused by COVID-19. Experience has shown that women are at the center of durable solutions to reduce poverty. When women are unable to obtain income in a confined state, their families do not benefit. Studies show that income is more easily spent on human development when women fail to control the finances. Thus, at RD. Congo more than 85% of women living in informal sectors, to contribute to the household income, are fed (in terms of calories and protein). Vulnerability studies, carried out in a participatory manner, revealed a particular exposure of women, in part due to pandemic norms to covid-19 which limit their mobility and their decision-making power. In addition to improving the resources of women through income-generating activities resilient to climate change to the structural constraints that weigh on the role of women in covid-19. To allow the woman to speak in public; to negotiate important family decisions with their husbands, the children on the consequences on confinement measures and on the covid-19 pandemic.
Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

The connection to the climate crisis is an important one, and both global health risks and climate change are bringing back references to the human security paradigm, which has so many points in common with the women, peace and security agenda. 

swedi bilombele
Women participate in decision-making in response to COVID-19 in several ways On a comprehensive, participatory and attentive analysis of covid-19 vulnerability (including the social, economic and political components of vulnerability to covid-19); Recognizes differences in vulnerability within countries, communities and households, and targets adaptation strategies accordingly from COVID-19; Builds on the existing knowledge and capacities of men, women, boys and girls to increase public awareness of the pandemic, by integrating the most vulnerable groups linked to containment measures; by supporting them to guarantee their daily survival in actions to empower vulnerable women and girls to build their adaptive capacity; promoting local, national and international adaptation policies and programs that meet the specific needs of the poorest women and men. These observations suggest below that strengthening the role of women in family and community affairs should lead to decisions that improve the ability to adapt to the impacts of COVID-19. This largely explains why activities aimed at advancing gender inequalities favorably, including efforts to empower women, are an essential component of the adaptation approach to decision-making. decision. By interacting with local populations, helped to design a simple technique; to hide, to adapt to these changes, to promote the conservation of food so that surpluses are properly stored, ensure leadership roles in the community and in local institutions by providing training and supervision as well as strengthening the capacity of women's organizations to advocate for women's rights. Combined with action at the district level to reduce vulnerability, these efforts have reduced systemic inequalities that prevent women from fully contributing to the resilience of their homes, communities and society.
Seniha Ayse Orellana

Thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts. It is a privilege to participate in this group to learn from you all. Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security (GIWPS), where I am currently affiliated with, investigated more systematically the relationship between its WPS index, produced by GIWPS in partnership with PRIO – which measures the comprehensive wellbeing of women

And Inform Global Risk Index in order to determine whether there is a relationship between a country’s predisposition to risk and the wellbeing of its female population. Findings showed that, the correlation is striking; the countries in the world at highest risk for COVID-19 catastrophe are also those where the status and wellbeing of women is worst (https://giwps.georgetown.edu/what-can-the-wps-index-tell-us-about-global-risks-like-covid-19/). These findings of GIWPS research show that countries that exclude women from economic, social and political life, where women are subjected to injustice and insecurity, are also are in high risk of facing extreme challenges during humanitarian disasters and pandemics such as we are experiencing now and least prepared to deal with them. Also by excluding women in key decisions on these issues they are also losing many opportunities in developing effective responses.

Women also face unique risks during these times, as majority of care-takers tend to be women and girls. Extra burden placed on women and girls impact their ability to continue their professional work or education.  Women and girls, in marginalized communities and with disabilities are particularly Affected from these. Also, women and girls are under heightened risks of violence as incidents of domestic violence soar under the pandemic measures. Their liberties and ability to move is more restricted, their access to protection services and social networks are cut off and access to justice is further undermined.

GIWPS has also been reaching out to women peacebuilders to learn from them how they are responding to the Pandemic and how we can support each other. It is so inspiring to see how they are responding to the crisis. Some, like the women in Liberia, have taken the lead in producing low-cost, locally made chloride soaps and face masks, others are raising funds, fighting misinformation and providing sanitary kits. Others are working to provide psycho-social support. Technology, such as cell-phones, whether using WhatsApp or other tools, have been really important during this time to help support each other, organize, network and brainstorm. But not everyone has access to digital technology. Especially the most vulnerable groups may not have the most needed tools. Therefore, bridging the technology divide, supporting the efforts on the ground by local community leaders is very important.

It also absolutely critical to continue to work with governments, international organizations and civil society to further gender equality and women’s access to justice especial at the policy level. Inclusion of diverse voices of women in the policy making, implementation and evaluation of programs in areas such as health, economic recovery, budgeting, among others, is not only important for better and more effective and efficient response to the pandemic but is also central to addressing the particular needs of women and girls and more effective recovery after the crisis.

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you for sharing some of the findings of the WPS Index and your surveys and outreach to women peacebuilders. It is eye-opening that the correlation between the global risk index and the WPS index is much stronger than with income per-capita, for example. And the point about the digital divide is crucial. Beyond the long-term work of bridging this gap, I wonder if there are more examples of how the UN or others are facilitating access to digital platforms in the short term. 

Ms. Anne Marie Goetz

The scenario regarding women’s engagement in the management and recovery of the pandemic, particularly in fragile states, is on the whole grim – we see an exacerbation of the gendered inequalities generated by structural exclusion from decision-making at all levels, compounded by women’s lack of time and resources caused by their secondary labor market position and inflated unpaid care burden. On top of this the explosion of domestic violence represents an obvious and crushing constraint.

 

But it is worth considering whether there may be room for expansion of women’s leadership and opportunities for their employment in view of their existing firm presence in at least two of the key sectors involved in crisis response.  One is health, where even though women represent just 28% of health ministers globally, they are the backbone of the workforce in health services. 

 

The other, and there has been relatively little discussion of this, is social protection services.  Around the world women are 58% of social affairs ministers.  A great portion of immediate pandemic response operations call for emergency extension of social security payments, of unemployment benefits, and emergency cash payments to poor households to ensure food security.  In a number of developing countries, it is the existing networks of cash transfer schemers of one form or another that have been pumped with additional funds in order to deliver resources to the poorest households.  In many polices, these social welfare safety net systems have women leaders, women represent a significant portion of field-level staff, and the majority of direct beneficiaries are women. 

 

In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, for instance, a governance system that was born from peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation front, the Minister of Social Services and Development is a woman lawyer who had been a key figure in the peace negotiations, Raissa Jajuri.  Her ministry manages the distribution of a poverty-reduction resource, the ‘Programang Pantawid Pampamilya at Pangkabuhayan’, known as the ‘4Ps’ program, which delivers cash to mothers whose children are expected to meet educational and nutritional benchmarks in exchange.  This program is a key mechanism for delivering resources to an expanded number of poor households under the nation-wide Special Amelioration Program that supports cash for the poor under the Enforced Community Quarantine response to the pandemic.   Minister Jajuri is facing challenges in rapidly expanding disbursements (which are effected via bank ATM cards) in the context of uneven government capacity and reach as well as instances of corruption in which the funds are diverted to undeserving beneficiaries.  These problems are not unique to this conflict-affected part of the Philippines.

 

The point is that there may be quite a few examples of social welfare systems being expanded rapidly to provide relief to those unable to work under quarantine situations, and that there may be other cases of women leaders seeing elevated responsibilities for this expansion – perhaps especially in fragile state contests.  This could contribute to heightening the visibility of these leaders as well as the importance of social reproduction as a key component of peacebuilding.

Pablo Castillo Diaz Moderator

Thank you for the example from Mindanao and the larger point about ministers of social affairs, their role in the extension of social welfare benefits, and the possibility that the greater need for these schemes could elevate these ministers' profiles and visibility. I had not read this point elsewhere and it strikes me as something that would merit a longer article and greater visibility. And it made me think that while there has been an impressive number of articles lauding the performance thus far by several women leaders, we read a lot less about key ministers. Here's one interesting exception to the under-representation of women in power: in Ethiopia, which has so far only reported 5 deaths in a country of 112 million people, the government's COVID-19 task team has been led by four women ministers (Health, Transport, Peace, and Science and Higher Education) alongside the female Attorney General, all under the leadership of the first woman president of Ethiopia, Sahle Work-Zewde. 

swedi bilombele
Dear Pablo Castillo Diaz Greetings, I hope you are holding all well during this difficult time covid-19. Please, I would like to thank you firstly in welcoming us to this online discussion with regard to the work of UN Women's Peace and Security team in moderating ours group during the first of six weeks. I think well in answer to your question the nature of woman rests on her physical, moral and intellectual capacity, for the decision-making, it would be possible that the woman leaders is involved in the decision-making bodies in society to arrive to ensure its place that suit it in response to the actions of covid-19. Women’s right to health comprises an array of interrelated rights. The nature and scope of state obligations concerning those rights have important consequences for determining remedies for violations. This study identifies component of women’s rights. The precise character of violations regarding women’s rights to health has been elaborated examining specific factual circumstances in an armed conflict environment. The study also illustrates how underlying social conditions compromise women’s health, gender –based vulnerability and the constraints these impose on equality and liberties, and the many factors beyond clinical health services that contribute to neglect of women’s health. Further , it aims to create an awareness of the applicability of international human rights law, requiring states to remove those influences that negatively affect women status and health. It strives to justify initiatives to assist states in conforming to the law and to hold them accountable for their failure. It concludes by exploring how principal’s human rights law can inspire individual and collective initiatives to remove barriers to the achievement of optimal health status of women’s under the circumstances of displacement in armed conflicts situations. Warmly
Olena Ursu

Dear colleagues, thank you for an opportunity to join this discussion. Me and my colleagues Mykola Yabchenko and Tetiana Grytsenko from UNDP Ukraine would like to share with you some information about the situation here in the context of women vs COVID-19.

  • Women and men have different exposure to COVID-19. Women are more likely to be exposed to the virus with higher workplace health and safety risks and dealing with enormous stress balancing paid and unpaid work roles. In Ukraine, women make more than 80% of the health and social sectors (82% women health care workers, 81% women educators, 99% women primary teachers), playing a disproportionate role in responding to COVID-19. An overrepresentation of women in the healthcare sector, especially as nurses, care givers, cleaners, increases their risk of exposure to the virus from potentially infected patients and risk of stigmatization due to caring for them.
  • COVID-19 shows greater direct risks for people over 60, as well as those with underlying medical conditions. However, the impact is different in elder women and men. Women live longer than men – on average by 10 years in Ukraine. Due to the gender gaps in life expectancy, wages, and digital skills, elderly women, who comprise the majority of the elderly, have lower pensions than men and less possibility to buy care or other services. Low internet access in vulnerable urban and rural households, as well as low digital skills, especially for elderly women, put them at risk. 
  • Exponential increase in unpaid care work (because of school and social services closures, care for children/elderly/sick, domestic work). Women do more than two times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Due to the existing structures of the workforce (including gender pay gap) and social norms, women are more likely to experience a significant increase of unpaid work and care burdens with the outbreak of COVID-19. This does not only imply increased time poverty, but also can have an impact on their livelihoods and upward job mobility. In certain cases, this may lead to women having to quit or lose their jobs. Given the existing inequalities in gender distribution of care work, this has pressing implications for women’s health and economic wellbeing, both in short and long term.
  • Social norms may exclude women from decision-making roles, as well as from information channels. Women have less access to internet and new technologies: 57% of women are Internet users; 67% of rural women do not have access to internet at home. This has a direct impact on women´s ability to get informed and adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, as ICTs are proving to be critical during the outbreak. The lack of women´s participation in decision making and in communication channels limits the reach and impact of recovery efforts and the possibilities to revitalize economies.
  • Gender-based violence is a global health problem of epidemic proportions. During the COVID-19 outbreak, there is an increasing evidence to show that movement restrictions, the closure of most businesses, combined with physical distancing, fear and stress, place women and girls at heightened risk of GBV. 2 in 3 women experience psychological, physical, or sexual violence; women comprise 81% of domestic violence survivors and 81% or rape survivors. During the coronavirus outbreak, these numbers increase, when women are confined at home with their abusers due to quarantine measures. The pressure to respond to COVID-19 cases disrupts social, health, and juridical support for GBV survivors. According to the data for GBV survivors, the number of calls during the quarantine increased by 30% as compared to the same period last year. 

UN Women conducted a rapid gender assessment of the situation and needs of women in the context of COVID-19 in Ukraine, which revealed many more findings.

UNDP tries to ensure gender-sensitive response to the COVID-19 outbreak. To name just a few initiatives:

  • We prepared a comprehensive analysis of gender inequalities caused by COVID-19 outbreak and offered our Programme to integrate its findings, conclusions and recommendations on strengthening gender-equitable approaches in crisis preparedness, response, and recovery in Ukraine.
  • At the same time, there is a lack of specific data on how the crisis affected Ukrainians. To determine the exact social and economic consequences of the crisis, UNDP, in partnership with FAO and the UN Women, is conducting an extensive survey of households and small and medium enterprises in all 24 regions with a special attention to the effects on women and men. 
  • Findings of the survey together with the recommendations for gender-equitable response and recovery will become the reference books for two Crisis Management Units which UNDP is now setting up for the Government of Ukraine in order to ensure that the crisis management structure can provide a coordinated, efficient and inclusive response to the COVID-19 national crisis leaving no one behind. 
  • We have supported the Secretariat of Ukraine's parliament to introduce the gender assessment as the regular quality management practice, and used this opportunity to promote awareness on gender equality among the Members of Parliament, 80% of whom are new to politics in this Parliament's convocation. We hope this will help the parliamentarians to make further gender-sensitive decisions. ]
  • Immediately after the outbreak, UNDP launched a competition “Civil society response to the needs of vulnerable populations during COVID-19 outbreak in Ukraine” and ten projects of local CSOs were awarded. The projects supplement our support to the Government, and are now being implemented focusing on monitoring and protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups of women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, prisoners and children; coordinating volunteer activities at the subnational level; assisting the local media to function effectively, and providing legal support to those most in need.

We also have examples of local women’s groups participating directly in the response.

  • UNDP-supported Lviv civil society hub, Women’s Perspectives, has been providing care for the survivors of domestic violence for more than 15 years, including providing psychosocial and legal counselling, shelter, and SME development for women entrepreneurs. From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak UNDP has been supporting the communication campaign for the CSO hubs network in 15 regions of Ukraine, helping those most in need to find the existing support and lifesaving services.
  • We also support ‘JurFem’, the Ukrainian Women Lawyers’ Association, to assess the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, focusing on labour and family rights and gender-based violence. In addition, we launched an online campaign on tackling human rights violations during lockdown, and are supporting a CSO initiative to help women and girls in rural and remote areas of six regions access information.

Thank you for sharing your experiences – these are all very useful and inspiring.

swedi bilombele
and you too. regards M. Crispin
Cecilia Pellosniemi Moderator

Dear colleagues,

My apologies for the radio silence. I am moderating the discussions this week and look forward to hearing from you on your perspectives regarding this topic. I am particularly interested in local women's initiatives and the intersection between the responses to COVID-19 and peace and security, including ceasefires and peace negotiations.

As I work on Syria, I have noticed that women peacebuilders have taken up multiple roles in addition to their existing work and have been essential actors in community-level responses. It is extremely important that women-led organizations still have sufficient resources to continue peace work and that their resources are not diverted. COVID-19 should not become an excuse not to advance inclusive political processes.

I look forward to hearing your perspectives and please let me know if you have any questions.

All the best,

Cecilia

Victor Okechukwu Chimezie

Hello Cecilia! Hello colleagues!

This is a great and timely conversation and I must say kudos to UNDP, the partners and all the organizers for putting this up

In Nigeria, Peacebuilders are doing a lot to contribute to a safer and united Society.

Mind Reformers Network which I work with carries out sensitisation on the most used and proliferated social media platforms which is the WhatsApp and our main aim of doing this is to fight infodemic ( fake news that can cause community and health crisis) we also talk on positives so persons can know that we can overcome this to support the psychological well being of the people, we are also organizing a weekly Peacebuilding lecture to equip passionate young Nigerians on how to keep the society safe and help manage conflict that might arise in this pandemic era and this class is made up of 53% females and 47% males

Building Blocks for Peace and some other Peacebuilding organisations also distributed food materials to underprivileged Nigerians to ensure hunger doesn't lead to conflicts that will disrupt the peace of the Society

 

However, there is need for more policies to enforce increased representation of women in governance and decision making as even though in Nigeria females make up anoua 47-49% of the total Nigerian population, they make up barely 7% of those in governance. This is bad and needs to be corrected


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