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Highlighting UN SDG #5: Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment

 

 

Women and girls are being disproportionately affected by the global Coronavirus pandemic in many ways. Women play a vital role as caretakers around the world; with over 75% of the healthcare workforce made up of women, these positions play a crucial role in keeping our societies safe and healthy. Many women are risking their lives to ensure that others are  taken care of. Several of the countries who have made instrumental strides in the right direction to put an end to this pandemic have been led by women: Taiwan, Germany and New Zealand are some examples of countries with female leaders who have taken early action in managing the spread of Coronavirus in efficient, productive ways. Yet, still only 7% of world leaders are women, despite the deep understanding and meaningful experiences that women provide to global peacemaking. Women need to be better incorporated into key decision-making processes in regards to global health, the economy and social protection. 

While women should be empowered and celebrated for their contributions in combatting the spread of this virus, they should also be protected. Due to isolation, financial hardships and emotional distress during our global lockdown, there has also been a sharp rise in domestic violence against women. This pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities and exacerbating many of the economic, political and social issues that have kept women vulnerable for so long. According to the UN Report on COVID-19 and Women, the Coronavirus has impacted women directly by furthering economic instability since women generally earn less and are  more likely to participate in unpaid labor (such as childcare) due to gender norms. Additionally, sexual and reproductive healthcare is no longer being treated as a top priority in many medical facilities because resources have been reallocated to COVID relief. These are just two examples of a myriad of problems women are facing right now in the wake of this pandemic, which is why the fight for gender equality and the protection of women continues to be so critical. 

Deputy Secretary-General Visits Papua New Guinea

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5 focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. According to the UN: “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.” Uplifting women and girls is good for society as a whole. Global SDG #5 is actively working to end issues women and girls have to face on a daily basis such as child marriage, domestic violence, unequal pay, sexual harassment and a lack of political representation. In order to tackle such a wide-spanning spectrum of challenges, there needs to be efforts made on all levels in order to dismantle the root causes of these issues through legislation, community-level advocacy, social awareness and interpersonal relationships.

The women’s rights movement in the United States has played an integral role in global peacemaking and sustainable development since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Women ensured that gender equality was considered a fundamental human right in the UN Charter. Feminist groups and their involvement with the United Nations has served as a meaningful connection between high-level policies and community organizing around women’s issues. This work has continued throughout history and coincides with a now global movement to ensure women have equal rights and are safe, healthy and able to exercise those rights. As much as the UN amplifies the work of feminist organizers and advocates for women, the UN also needs this movement to continue to inform its work on implementing SDG #5. It is not solely the job of women to advocate for women and girls; men and boys are important allies in helping to unburden women and advocate on their behalf. The #HeForShe campaign is one example that encourages men and all people to stay engaged in the fight for gender equality in order to create a safer world for women and girls globally.

 

There are many small, actionable steps anyone can take to help alleviate the burdens women are facing now during this crisis, as well as in the future:  

  • Take care of caregivers and support women with their work in the home  

  • Support organizations helping women with donations, food and funding prioritization  

  • Advocate for equal pay & better healthcare for all  

  • Listen and believe women’s stories 

  • Watch and report  signs of domestic violence 

  • Support women-owned businesses  

  • Advocate for the education of girls everywhere  

  • Continue to maintain good health, hygiene and safety practices for COVID-19 

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated in his speech to “put women and girls at the center of efforts to recover from COVID-19,” it is important to continue advocating for women and gender equality to ensure the safety, recovery and well-being of society as a whole.

 

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