The COVID-19 pandemic is “hitting women hard”, but most nations are failing to provide sufficient social and economic protection for them, the head of the UN gender empowerment agency said on Monday.
And women have often become victims of domestic violence “locked down with their abusers, as unpaid caregivers in families and communities, and as workers in jobs that lack social protection”, adds the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
New data released by gender agency and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) taken from the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, reveal that most countries are not doing enough to protect women and girls from the economic and social fallout being caused by the virus.
The analysis signals that one-fifth of the 206 countries analyzed, or 42 States, had no gender-sensitive measures in place to respond to the pandemic.
And only 25 countries have introduced measures aimed at tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), support unpaid care and strengthen women’s economic security.
These may include helplines, shelters or legal support to counter the surge in violence; cash transfers directly targeted at women; or childcare services and paid sick leave.
“The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity for countries to transform existing economic models towards a renewed social contract that prioritizes social justice and gender equality”, said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “This new gender response tracker can help accelerate policy reform by guiding on gaps in national efforts and funding and highlighting best practices”.
Across 135 countries, the tracker identified 704 measures to prevent and/or respond to VAWG. Of these, 63 per cent focused on strengthening essential services, such as shelters, helplines and other reporting mechanisms.
However, only 48 countries, less than a quarter of those analyzed, treated VAWG-related services as an integral part of their national and local COVID-19 response plans – with very few adequately funding these measures.
At the same time, social protection, care crisis and jobs response has been largely blind to women’s needs, with only 177 measures in 85 countries explicitly aimed at strengthening women’s economic security, and just 60 taking action to support unpaid care and strengthen care services for children, older persons or persons with disabilities.
The tracker also shows that gender actions vary widely across countries and regions.
According to the analysis, Europe is leading the response on addressing VAWG and unpaid care – accounting for almost 32 per cent of all violence measures and 49 per cent of all unpaid care measures.
Meanwhile, the Americas has the largest number of measures aimed at strengthening women’s economic security, followed by Africa.
“The Global Tracker supports Governments in making the right policy decisions by sharing good practices and monitoring progress in care policies and measures to address violence against women”, said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.