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UN chief: Pandemic exposes endemic gender inequality

  • Published at 03:25 pm March 16th, 2021
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

The damage to women is incalculable and will resound down the decades, into future generations, says Guterres

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on women and girls, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.

The fallout has shown how deeply gender inequality remains embedded in the world’s political, social and economic systems, he lamented while addressing the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) on Monday.

CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year’s Commission will focus on charting a global roadmap towards achieving full equality in public life.

Guterres said gender equality in all walks of life is a long way off and has been further undermined by the pandemic.

“The damage is incalculable and will resound down the decades, into future generations,” he said. 

Women make up most of the jobs that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, are far more likely than men to lose work, and women’s and girls’ unpaid care work has risen dramatically owing to factors such as stay-at-home orders, the closure of schools and childcare facilities, and an increased need for elder care, he added.

Yet dramatically improving the gender balance would not only benefit women, but the economy at large, said the UN chief, pointing to evidence showing that women’s participation enhances economic results, prompts greater investment in social protection, leads to more sustainable peace and advances climate action.

“Women’s equal participation is the game-changer we need,” he said.

Guterres paid tribute to women, saying that they are at the heart of Covid-19 response.

He underlined the continued male domination in public life, and why it is so important for women to be involved in decision-making processes.

The secretary-general put forward five proposals for the world leaders to advance the cause of gender equality, including realization of women’s equal rights fully by repealing discriminatory laws and enacting positive measures.

Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in her speech to the Commission that those hit hardest by the pandemic are those who are least able to cope.

Munir Akram, the president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and Volkan Bozkir, the president of the UN General Assembly, also spoke on the occasion.

Women’s voices in developed and developing countries continue to be silenced, amid pervasive discrimination and violence said Akram. 

He said that sustainable development is not possible if women continue to be marginalized, and called for a new global compact for women’s empowerment, and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Bozkir called on UN member states to take a series of concrete measures, including strengthening legislation against gender-based violence, establishing reporting and redress mechanisms for victims, and committing to violence monitoring.