Covid-19 exposed social, economic and gender inequality: UN


Stating that COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down in the last six months, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the pandemic has deepened the existing inequalities, including gender inequality.

“Beyond the virus itself, the response has had a disproportionate and devastating social and economic impact on women and girls,” he said while interacting with yyoung women from Civil Society Organizations.

pandemic has deepened the existing inequalities, including gender inequality.


Stating that gender equality and women’s rights have seen a reversal in decades, Guterres noted the risk of losing a generation or more of gains if the world did not have a serious response.

He mentioned that women have been on the frontlines of the response, as healthcare workers, teachers, essential staff and as carers in their families and communities. “Between 70 and 90 per cent of healthcare workers are women, but their salaries and conditions often failed to reflect the lifesaving roles they occupy. Personal Protective Equipment is often made to fit a standard man, which means women care workers may be at greater risk of infection, and fewer than 30 percent of decision-making roles in the health sector are occupied by women. 70 to 90 percent of healthcare workers doing the work, with only 30 percent in decision-making roles,” the UN Chief said.

crisis has exposed the crisis in unpaid care work,

The Chief said that majority of women around the world are employed informally and several of them have been thrown into financial insecurity by the pandemic, without regular income and lacking any social safety net.

Moreover, Guterres also mentioned that the crisis has exposed the crisis in unpaid care work, which has increased exponentially as a result of school closures and the needs of older people and falls disproportionately on women.

He said that there were disturbing reports from around the world of skyrocketing levels of gender based violence, as many women are effectively confined with their abusers, while resources and support services are redirected.

Stressing that the protecting the rights of women and girls was a top priority for the United Nations, the chief said that they have already issued a policy brief in early April, calling on governments to take concrete action to put women and girls – their inclusion, representation, rights, social and economic outcomes and protection – at the centre of all efforts to tackle and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Guterres mentioned three phases of good response to overcome the deepening inequalities. Noting that the phase was health response, Guterres said that though women and children are at lower risk from COVID-19 virus, they are suffering because of the redirection of health funding and services.  Maternal mortality fell by nearly 40 per cent between 2000 and 2017. However, there were signs that the rates were rising again due to the pandemic, particularly in countries in crisis, he said.

so much of the work women do is underpaid and undervalued

He said that the governments should take a holistic view of the health impact of the pandemic. “All women have a right to quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health services. Governments have a responsibility to make sure women and girls can access these services, even during a crisis. In the longer term, we need health systems that meet the needs and realities of all, including women and girls. This means prioritizing and funding primary health care and Universal Health Coverage,” he said.

Holistic view of the health impact needed; Guterres

Apart from this, he said that the governments were also asked to prioritise protecting women from gender-based violence in their national COVID-19 plans. “At the start of the pandemic, after my call for a global ceasefire, I issued an appeal for an end to all violence everywhere – from war zones to people’s homes – so that we can face this pandemic together, in solidarity,” he said.


Stating that the second phase of the response is mitigating the social and economic impact of the crisis, the UN Chief said that it started with putting money into the hands of women who work in both the formal and informal economies. “Cash transfers, credits and loans should be targeted at women, to mitigate the immediate impact of job losses and increased caring responsibilities,” he said.


The third phase of the response is building a better future. “The pandemic is only demonstrating what we all know: that millennia of patriarchy have resulted in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture which damages everyone – women, men, girls and boys. I have many times said that behind many of the problems I have been talking about, there is an essential question of power.  It is indeed addressing this question of power that we must concentrate all our efforts,” he said.

Mentioning that it was the time to rebuild more equal, inclusive, and resilient societies, he said “our roadmap is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We need to take the opportunity of an economic reset to ensure the rights to life, dignity, and security for everyone.”

Pointing out that the pandemic has shown who is doing the work that really matters, the UN Chief said that it was time to end the inequities of unpaid care work and create new economic models that work for everyone. “Benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, paid child and family care and paid parental leave are not luxuries; they are vital to the functioning of our societies. Extending those inevitably has a gender dimension, because so much of the work women do is underpaid and undervalued,” he said.


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