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Government COVID-19 taskforces need more women

Tuesday March 23rd 2021

Women’s absence from COVID-19 government taskforces around the globe perpetuates the gender divide and will hamper their recovery from the pandemic, according to a new United Nations report.

New data published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, and the Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL) at the University of Pittsburgh reveals that women, on average, make up 24% of members among 225 COVID-19 task forces in 137 countries. In 26 task forces, there are no women.

Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, said although women make up 70% of healthcare workers globally, they have been systematically excluded from the decision-making processes on how to address the impacts of the pandemic.

“This eye-opening new data shows, for instance, that only eight countries in the world have COVID-19 task forces with gender parity,” he said.

“Women’s full and inclusive participation in public institutions is critical to ensure their needs are adequately addressed in the pivotal decisions now being made – these are choices that will determine their futures for generations to come.”

UNDP and UN Women are urging governments to ensure women have equal participation in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and have equal decision-making power and leadership opportunities.

They say 32 countries still register no gender-sensitive measures in response to COVID-19.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women executive director, said: “It is inconceivable that we can address the most discriminatory crisis we have ever experienced without full engagement of women.

“At the moment, men have given themselves the impossible task of making the right decisions about women without the benefit of women’s insights. This needs to be set right without delay so we can work together on a future that is equitable, gender-responsive and greener.”

The Tracker data shows there are gaps in the economic recovery process that has largely excluded women’s specific need: of March 2021, 13% of the 2,280 COVID-19 fiscal, social protection, and labour market measures target women’s economic security.

And the measures taken, including cash transfers and food aid that targets or prioritise women, have often been small scale and temporary.

The Tracker also shows that 11% of social protection or labour market measures address unpaid care and domestic work, of which women were doing three times as much as men before the pandemic.

Good practices, mostly by Europe and the Americas, include the provision of childcare services (34 countries), paid family or sick leave (44 countries), or flexible work arrangements (11 countries).

“We need more and better data, and collaborations such as those between the University of Pittsburgh and the United Nations can help us get there,” said Ann E. Cudd, provost and senior vice chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This research partnership has generated important new data that not only highlight the problem but provide the evidence needed to tackle these disparities.”

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Women's Health & Gynaecology | World Health

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