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A lesson in resilience: Ensuring gender equality in the global recovery

Author: Sciences Po student Lydia Jayakumar summarizes the debate session of the fourth edition of the Paris Peace Forum

Date: 12 November 2021


A lesson in resilience: Ensuring gender equality in the global recovery

The pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of our world. We are currently seeing how pre-existing gender inequalities are being exacerbated by Covid-19. There has been unprecedented job loss, increase in violence against women, in particular domestic violence, and increased caregiving burden on women.  We have also seen an increase in violence against women, this increase was brought up by Elisabeth Moreno, Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities France, “No country in the world can pretend that they are treating their women the same way as they are treating their men. There is a special need to address sexual violence against women today, because there is no equality possible if every two days you have a woman dying because she is killed by a man”. Even the recovery path from Covid-19 is proving uneven and gendered, hitting women from low- and middle-income countries the hardest. While men are beginning to regain the job losses due to the pandemic, women are still lagging behind in employment recovery. This emerged as a central point of discussion at the 2021 Paris Peace Forum’s ‘A lesson in resilience: Ensuring gender equality in the global recovery’ panel. Even before the pandemic, women’s place in the workforce and beyond was always under threat, “Women have more unstable jobs, with lower salaries and higher informality. They also have to do more unpaid domestic work and suffer violence at home,” said Edna Jaime Treviño, Founder and General Director, México Evalúa at the beginning of the panel. The Covid-19 pandemic only made the situation worse, Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, Managing Director of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH stated clearly, “The employment rate for women remains much lower than that of men. During the pandemic we have seen that male employment has more or less recovered to levels before the pandemic, however, this has not been the case for women. This year we count 13 million less employed women”. ILO figures also corroborate and show that the trends in GDP recovery is leaving women behind, a pattern which has also been observed in previous crises. The employment loss for women can be partially explained by women’s over-representation in sectors severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis like hospitality, food services, retail, and domestic work. Along with this, women took over the burden of increased unpaid care work within households due to closure of schools and restricted mobility. The home-based care and nursing of those affected by Covid-19 also often fell on them. These care responsibilities meant that many women were forced to leave employment altogether.

Recovery from Covid-19 towards sustainable futures needs to include gender as a unit of analysis. However, even global conferences supposed to lead us to sustainable futures have glaring discrepancies. Trisha Shetty founder of SheSays talked about COP26  and its exclusion of women activists, “A recent census showed that 500 fossil fuel lobbyists were delegates at COP26, if they were a country, that would be the largest number of delegates of one country. In contrast, we saw the exclusion of young climate activists, particularly indigenous activists at COP26 most of whom were women”. She strongly recommended affirmative action policies for women in the form of quotas.

Barbara Lavernos, Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Research, Innovation and Technology Groupe L’Oréal looked at what corporates and the private sector can do in this sphere, “A private company is never gender neutral. Within our company L’Oréal, the first thing we did was ensure that every employee was paid a 100 percent. We have to first work internally in our own environments and then extend beyond”. For Allyson Burns, the Chief Executive Officer of Village Capital, the corporate sector is designed and set up so that women don’t have a fair chance. “We are trying to change a system that leads to capital being concentrated in just a few people, a few places and a few problems” she said. In the wake of the 2021 Generation Equality Forum co-organized by UN Women, France and Mexico which fueled a powerful and lasting coalition for gender equality, the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women compels us to work towards a gender responsive recovery with serious and drastic policy efforts.

Contribution by Lydia Jayakumar

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