Gender-targeted commitments will be crucial for safeguarding the gains made in women’s rights
Despite almost ubiquitous challenges, there are positive solutions for steering out of the disastrous impact of COVID-19 and into constructive change. They require recognising previously underestimated underlying factors that the pandemic stressors have brought to light.
The G7’s decisive commitment to gender-responsive stimulus packages that truly respond to women’s needs will be critical. Several governments have already taken unprecedented measures, by strengthening access to health care, cash transfers, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits. Yet while some of these measures benefit women, far too few are designed or implemented with women’s rights or needs in mind. As the UNDP/UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker shows, only 18% of the global social protection and jobs response has targeted women’s economic security or addressed the rise in unpaid care work. Without a change, another 47 million women will fall into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of progress.
We look to governments and to all those who control power, resources and influence to champion what we call ‘Generation Equality’, shaping a future together that dismantles the barriers to women’s progress through working across generations and sectors. I invite all G7 members to join Generation Equality’s Global Acceleration Plan that convenes collective action on six themes including economic justice and rights, gender-based violence, feminist action for climate justice, and technology and innovation for gender equality, with targets to guide action and investment for the next five years.
The pandemic has confirmed that care for children and other family members is essential, life-sustaining work that needs investments in both public and private quality care services. It also requires new, well-paid, safe care jobs that recognise, reduce and redistribute the current unpaid care work in homes, and reward careworkers and guarantee their labour rights. Such changes need an enabling legal and policy environment.
Within the G7, Canada recently promised significant fiscal resources to achieve affordable childcare for all, committing to improving the pay and conditions of care workers. The new US administration has recognised that care is infrastructure, alongside roads and bridges, pledging investments of $400 billion. Every G7 member should implement gender-responsive macroeconomic plans, budget reforms and stimulus packages that significantly reduce the number of women and girls living in poverty, including through quality public social protection floors and systems. Now is the moment for the other G7 members to follow in supporting the care economy, and championing women’s economic justice and rights to the rest of the world.
Even before the pandemic, women’s employment was often concentrated in the most vulnerable informal jobs. During the pandemic, women have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men, with particularly devastating consequences for the economic autonomy of women with care responsibilities, with labour market vulnerabilities even worse for the most excluded – including women with disabilities, migrant, refugee women and small farmers. Lost income and employment, food insecurity and substance abuse are linked to increased risk of men’s violence against women and girls, exacerbating the prevalent domestic and other forms of violence. Women aged between 15 and 24 are often the worst affected. There are well-grounded fears that other forms of violence, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, are also increasing.
I urge G7 members to join the Global Acceleration Plan to tackle gender-based violence and ratify international and regional conventions; scale up implementing and financing evidence-driven prevention strategies; scale up implementing and financing survivor-centred, comprehensive, quality, accessible and affordable services for survivors; and support women’s rights organisations, activists and movements, including those addressing gender-based violence against women and girls in all their diversity.
These will help us to rethink, renew and revolutionise how we organise our societies and economies. G7 members are in a unique position to champion these initiatives, both at home and as donors to developing countries and influencers of the global system.
Progress will also depend on generating much-needed financial resources, especially for developing countries. The US administration is demonstrating global leadership by calling on the International Monetary Fund to issue special drawing rights to provide emergency funds for developing countries to pay off unsustainable debt, fund vaccines or invest in social protection.
A new global minimum tax rate proposed by the United Nations and now also supported by the United States would help stem the tide of tax evasion and avoidance, and ensure everyone fairly contributes to the kind of world we want for the next generation.
Crises of the magnitude we face today call for big, bold ideas and extraordinary levels of global solidarity, cooperation and commitment to implement them. The Generation Equality Action Coalitions bring together the broad range of actors needed to drive progress forward, including states, civil society, young people, the private sector, philanthropies and many more, for a more sustainable and just future, with prosperity for all.