Advancement of Women: Women and girls and the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a crisis that goes far beyond health issues, having a major impact as well on our social and economic structures as well. Among those most affected by the negative impacts of the pandemic are women and girls around the world.  They are at a greater risk of infection, violence, economic devastation and poverty.

Approximately 70 per cent of health workers are women. In addition, women also carry a disproportionate share of responsibility for taking care of family members when they are sick. Consequently, they are more likely to be exposed to the virus. 

The negative socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also poses a serious threat to the progress that has been made in women’s economic empowerment, economic autonomy and productive lives, as they often earn less than men, save less, have less access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, have less access to credit and are also more likely to be employed in the informal sector which leads to less access to social protection and pensions. As a result, women are at greater risk of falling into poverty.

School closures, physical distancing and other strategies used to mitigate the crisis may affect girls and boys differently, especially adolescent girls, who are more likely to be expected to take on unpaid care and domestic work, limiting their access to remote learning and other education programmes. This may put them at a greater risk of being subjected to harmful practices, such as child labour and trafficking in persons.

Lockdown measures have also led to an increase in gender-based violence, including domestic violence,.

In order to prevent these threats from undoing the progress that has been made in achieving gender equality, women and girls must be supported economically, socially and politically. In addition, they must actively and directly participate in planning and implementing COVID-19 response plans to mitigate its impact. By adopting a strong gender-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic it is possible to create more inclusive, equal and resilient societies not only to address the impacts of the pandemic, but also to rebuild a better world for all.