Covid-19 threatens gender equality - UNCTAD | Sunday Observer

Covid-19 threatens gender equality - UNCTAD

10 October, 2021

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and threatens to roll back decades of hard-won progress in the fight against inequalities between women and men.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected women and men differently due to their distinct roles in economies and societies, so responding to the crisis without first assessing its impact on gender equality jeopardizes efforts to “build back better”, participants at UNCTAD’s first Gender and Development Forum heard. Women’s employment, for example, fell globally by 4.2% in 2020 compared with 3% for men, as sectors in which women tend to work more – such as tourism – were ravaged by restrictions used to curb the spread of the virus.

Before the pandemic hit, women already faced a 99-year wait before they were expected to enjoy full equality with men. The effects of Covid-19 have increased the wait by almost 40 years to 136, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum. “So, when it comes to gender equality, we are not talking about a lost decade. We are talking about almost four,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said on September 26 at the forum’s opening.

“Unless we solve inequalities between men and women, the pursuit of the SDGs is not possible,” she said, referring to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set up in 2015 by the UN General Assembly to be achieved by 2030. No less than 53 of the 251 SDGs’ indicators make direct reference to gender equality, women and girls. Yet women have not been given a seat at Covid-19 recovery decision-making tables.

For example, of the 225 working groups created to design and implement Covid-19’s life-saving programs for which data are available, women make up less than a quarter of members and are not represented at all in 12% of the working groups.

“It should be very clear to us all that the current recovery is insufficient and unsatisfactory for both the society at large and for women in particular,” Grynspan said.

The Gender and Development Forum was held virtually and hosted by Barbados as part of UNCTAD’s 15th ministerial conference (UNCTAD15), from October 3-7.