UN chief highlights impacts of COVID-19 on women

United Nations, April 10 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the impacts of COVID-19 on women.

“A pandemic amplifies and heightens all existing inequalities. With COVID-19, this is even more so,” said Guterres in a policy brief on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.
The policy brief highlighted the social and economic impacts of the pandemic on women across four areas: economic, health, unpaid care, and gender-based violence.
Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex, said the policy brief.
These impacts risk reversing limited gains made on women’s rights in the past decades, Guterres warned.
He asked for inclusion of women and women’s organisations at the heart of the COVID-19 response; the transformation of the inequities of unpaid care work into a new, inclusive care economy that works for everyone; the designing of socio-economic plans with an intentional focus on the lives and futures of women and girls.
“Putting women and girls at the centre of economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all, support a more rapid recovery, and place us back on a footing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the policy brief.
Women are the majority of those employed in sectors the worst hit by business closures due to COVID-19, including the service sector and tourism. The situation is worse in developing economies where the vast majority of women’s employment, 70 percent, is in the informal economy with few protections against dismissal or for paid sick leave and limited access to social protection.
The policy brief recommended actions, including prioritizing putting money in the hands of women through cash transfer programs, expanding social protections including to informal workers, and alleviating the tax burden on women-owned businesses.
The health of women is adversely impacted through the re-allocation of resources and priorities, including sexual and reproductive health services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Women may be at greater risk of exposure as they constitute 70 percent of the global health workforce on the front lines of response to COVID-19.
The policy brief called for specific attention to the needs and protection of female health workers and the continuation of standard health services.
With children out of school, intensified care needs of older persons and ill family members, and overwhelmed health services, demands for care work in a COVID-19 world have intensified exponentially. Prior to the crisis, women already averaged three times more time spent on work in the home than men.
The policy brief recommended the expansion of social protection, expansion of child care programs, and the design of economic recovery packages which finally make visible and place a value on unpaid care in the formal economy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic deepens economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, gender-based violence is increasing exponentially.
The policy brief recommended for all countries to make prevention and response part of their national COVID-19 response plans, ensure domestic violence shelters are designated essential services, move help and reporting and response online where possible, and increase funding to civil society organisations providing services in communities.