Gender equality and women’s empowerment during COVID-19

Key Points by Ioanna Georgia Eskiadi

In this webinar we discussed gender equality issues and the need for women’s empowerment, while we highlighted the problems raised during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Need to advance gender equality, promote women’s empowerment and equal opportunities.
  • COVID-19 increased domestic violence of women.
  • Inequality between genders doesn’t only affect individuals but also our economies.
  • Women are stigmatized, which has impacted self-confidence.
  • Women are unable to live in a fair and more inclusive world.
  • Peace and prosperity can be achieved though gender equality.
  • Need for educational opportunities, political freedom, mobility and equal rights for women.
  • Women are dependent on male family members most of the time.
  • Media need to create gender-sensitive and gender-transformative content.
  • Awareness and resilience of communities should be increased for better protection of women and children.

Gender equality is an issue affecting both women and men, so everyone needs to put in effort to achieve it. Women’s empowerment needs to be promoted, especially in countries in South Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened gender equality issues and women are facing domestic violence. The global pandemic has highlighted and magnified inequalities and posed threats to women’s employment, livelihoods and their mental and physical wellbeing. In Pakistan, there are a lot of impressive achievements: women work, are trained, and fight for their rights against discrimination, but inequalities still exist. There is gap and discrimination on payment achievements and many women’s lives are threatened. In Pakistan, a huge number of women face domestic violence; every two hours one women is harassed. Women need education and empowerment; without woman rights you can’t achieve a gender equality perspective. There is a need for equal opportunities for women and men.

“If you don’t provide the fundamental rights for each other, then this will have a great impact on our lives. If we want to see peace and prosperity around us, this can’t be achieved without gender equality. Gender equality is about fundamental rights of everyone,” says Dure Shawar from Pakistan.

“In Kashmir, women don’t have the basic rights, the situation is hopeless and it’s very difficult for someone to express his opinion. Women in Kashmir are facing abuse, are not able actually to decide or to reach authorities to find help. Every day, there’s a new law that restricts women’s rights,” says Safina Nabi from Jammu and Kashmir.

In Nepal, women are treated as second-class citizens, and are subjected to many harmful social practices.

“Trafficking and child labor have increased through the last years in Nepal. In the economic front, women spend many more hours in work than men, however, for the same work they earn less than men. But there is progress in women’s political representation (with 40% women at local governments), and the Constitution speaks for 33% representation of women in most of the state organs,” says Prakriti Bista from Nepal.

In Nepal, girls don’t find their home even in their “own” home, where old-fashioned social norms, values and harmful practices dominate. There’s low literacy in women, they are burdened by household chores and societal restrictions and women’s issues are hardly covered by the media, as there are fewer women journalists and Women Human Rights activists.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected women’s education, girls are marginalized, and they face economic stress. As result, girls end up quitting education and a lot of them are exploited. Women are the most vulnerable group during the pandemic in Pakistan while the lack of employment has impacted the economic condition of women. Existing inequalities also increased in the economic and social sectors. At the same time, the government needs to address the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls. Women’s expected duties of caring for elderly family members and siblings have been increased. Girls, especially those from marginalized communities and with disabilities, are mostly affected. The outbreak has further reduced the already limited access many girls and women have to reproductive health services (including maternal, new-born, and child health services).

Media play an important role in promoting gender equality and women’s rights by creating gender-sensitive and gender-transformative content and help break gender stereotypes. Media could change the gender perception by challenging traditional social and cultural norms and attitudes. There is an increase of portraits of women in leadership roles and as experts on a diversity of topics on a daily basis. Media should also enhance women’s access to information and empower them to claim their rights and make better decisions. The government and related stakeholders should come up with targeted and focused programs for gender equality and women’s empowerment, including non-discriminatory laws and practices. The legal and social system for protection of vulnerable women and children from a local and national level should be strengthened. Awareness and resilience of communities should be increased for better protection of women and children from Gender Based Violence and abuses.

Speakers:

Reshma Asrani from Geo Head in UK Region of Uplers Solutions Pvt Ltd in Ahmedabad, India.

Prakriti Bista is Program Officer of AMARC Asia-Pacific in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was U.S. State Department Fellows’ Exchange Alumnus on Spring 2019.

Ali Zafar is program Officer on EVAW, Governance and Human Rights and UN Women on Islamabad, Pakistan. He was U.S. State Department Fellows’ Exchange Alumnus on Fall 2018.

Safina Nabi is Independent Journalist from Jammu and Kashmir. She was U.S. State Department Fellows’ Exchange Alumnus on Fall 2018.

Dure Shawar is COO of All Pakistan Women’s Association from Lahore, Pakistan. She was U.S. State Department Fellows’ Exchange Alumnus on Fall 2017.

This event is co-organized by Digital Communication Network SouthEast Europe Hub (DCN SEE) and World Learning and is part of DCNSEE’s Ideas in Action — Digital Engagement, a series of virtual events launched in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. DCNSEE is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Citizen Exchanges.

This global event was designed and arranged with support from the South-Central Asia Alumni Network of the State Department exchange program Professional Fellows, implemented by World Learning.

DCN SOUTHEAST EUROPE HUB is a consortium of Aristotle University, Digital Communication Network, nonprofits, public and private organizations and companies involved in the fields of digital communication, social impact campaigns, technology, and innovation. It is a unique, interdisciplinary coalition tapping into the best talent and resources across Europe.

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