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Introduction: Inequality exposed

  • The pandemic is exposing and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality.
  • The Lockdowns increase the risk of violence towards women trapped with abusive partners.
  • Recent weeks have seen an alarming global surge in domestic violence while support services for women at risk face cuts and closures.
  • The threat to women’s rights and freedoms posed by COVID-19 goes far beyond physical violence. The deep economic downturn accompanying the pandemic is likely to have a distinctly female face.
  • Many women face a huge increase in care work due to school closures, overwhelmed health systems, and the increased needs of older people.
  • Entrenched inequality also means that while women make up 70% of healthcare workers, they are vastly outnumbered by men in healthcare management, and comprise just one in every 10 political leaders worldwide – which harms us all.

Things that can be done to help

  • Every country can take action by moving services online, expanding domestic violence shelters and designating them as essential, and increasing support to front line organisations.
  • The United Nations’ partnership with the European Union, the Spotlight Initiative, is working with governments in more than 25 countries on these and similar measures, and stands ready to expand its support.
  • We need women at the table when decisions are taken on this pandemic, to prevent worst-case scenarios like a second spike in infections, labour shortages, and even social unrest.
  • Women in insecure jobs urgently need basic social protections, from health insurance to paid sick leave, childcare, income protection and unemployment benefits.
  • The unpaid domestic work that women do must be included in economic metrics and decision-making. We will all gain from working arrangements that recognise people’s caring responsibilities, and from inclusive economic models that value work at home.
February 2024