The COVID-19 pandemic had and continues to have a profound impact on gender equality. Women and girls have paid a disproportionally high price during the pandemic. Discrimination, as well as Sexual and gender-based violence, both online and offline including domestic violence and intimate partner violence, have unprecedentedly increased, and the access to sexual and reproductive health-care services has been challenged. Women are on the frontline combatting the virus. There have been heavy job losses in female dominated sectors such as retail and hospitality. And during lockdowns and with school and day care closures, women took a disproportionate share of the unpaid care and domestic work, exacerbating existing gender inequalities.
The EU underlines that working towards women's and youth's equal, full and effective and meaningful participation, in all their diversity, in all spheres and levels of public and political life is critical in the design and implementation of the COVID-19 response and recovery and calls for building back in a gender transformative way. Gender mainstreaming in humanitarian and development actions, both online and offline, is crucial to seize the opportunity to fundamentally transform structures in all policy domains as part of this gender-responsive recovery, including in global health, finance and economics, climate change and biodiversity, peace and security and migration. The European Commission has adopted an EU Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025.
Recovery measures should be designed and implemented in a way that benefit everyone equally. The European Union and its Member States, acting together as ‘Team Europe’, are taking comprehensive and decisive action, adapting programmes and priorities to ensure gender responsive measures to respond to the crisis within and outside the EU. This includes the Recovery and Resilience Facility, one of the building blocks of the 750 Billion euro NextGeneration EU stimulus package. It will be based on national plans that contribute to gender equal recovery and equal opportunities for all.
Many of the gender inequalities that have come to the surface during the pandemic are issues of long standing. Women and girls facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination are now even at higher risk. Gender inequalities have been hugely intensified. Often, social norms and gender stereotypes are drivers of these inequalities. The lack in education, an enabler for the participation of women and girls in public life, is now worsened by school closures.
Women’s and girls’ participation and leadership plays a crucial role to overcome the deeply rooted barriers and systemic discrimination hindering gender equality. The EU stresses the importance to ensure the full, effective and meaningful participation of women and girls within the decision-making processes that will ultimately shape the post-pandemic future. Representation and equal participation in leadership of women and girls strengthens trust, drives sustainable solutions and is a way of leveraging innovation and talent for a gender equal world, including in all our efforts to build back better and greener.
The EU stresses the role of civil society, in particular women’s rights organization, women, youth and girl-led movements and women human rights defenders in designing and building our post COVID-19 future. Civil society has an indispensable role to advance all women and girls’ rights and participation, combatting sexual and gender-based violence and creating an enabling environment for women’s full, effective and meaningful participation.
To truly build back better, greener, and more equal, women’s and girls’ voices, participation and leadership are crucial elements. Post COVID-19 recovery will be a test of the resilience of women and girls’ rights too.