Op-ed: Establishing Generation Equality
By UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Date: Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Despite almost ubiquitous challenges, there are positive solutions that we can apply to steer our societies and economies out of the disastrous impact of COVID-19 and into constructive change. They require a recognition of some of the 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, strengthening access to health care, cash transfers, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits. Yet while some of these measures will benefit women, far too few are being 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 per cent of the global social protection and jobs response so far have targeted either women’s economic security or addressed the rise in unpaid care work. Current forecasts are that without a change in course, another 47 million more women will drop into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of progress.
We look to governments and to all those who control power, resources and influence to become the champions of what we call ‘Generation Equality’, shaping a future together that dismantles the barriers to women’s progress through working across generations and sectors on priority issues. I invite all G7 countries to join Generation Equality’s Global Acceleration Plan that convenes collective action around 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.
For example, 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 the creation of new, well paid, safe care jobs that recognize, reduce and redistribute the current unpaid care work in homes, and that reward careworkers and guarantee their labour rights. In turn, such changes need an enabling legal and policy environment.
Among the G7, Canada has recently promised significant fiscal resources to achieve affordable childcare for all, specifically committing to improving the pay and conditions of care sector workers. The new US administration has recognized that care is infrastructure, alongside roads and bridges, pledging investments of $400 billion. Every G7 country should have and implement gender-responsive macro-economic plans, budget reforms and stimulus packages so that the number of women and girls living in poverty is significantly reduced including through quality public social protection floors and systems. Now is the moment for the other G7 countries to follow suit in supporting the care economy, and then championing women’s economic justice and rights to the rest of the world.
Even before the pandemic hit, 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 has been linked in recent studies to increased risk of men’s violence against women and girls, exacerbating the prevalent domestic and other forms of violence. Young women aged between 15 and 24 often the worst affected and there are well-grounded fears that other forms of violence, such as FGM and child marriage, are also on the increase.
I urge G7 countries to join the Global Acceleration Plan to tackle gender-based violence and commit to ratify international and regional conventions; to scale up implementation and financing of evidence-driven prevention strategies; as well as to scale up implementation and financing of survivor-centered, comprehensive, quality, accessible and affordable services for survivors; and support women’s rights organizations, activists and movements, including those working to address gender-based violence against women and girls in all their diversity.
Progress will also depend on generating much-needed financial resources, especially for developing countries. The new US administration is demonstrating global leadership by calling on the International Monetary Fund to issue special drawing rights, which will provide emergency funds for developing countries to pay off unsustainable debt, fund vaccines or invest in social protection for their people. Meanwhile, a new global minimum tax rate proposed by the UN and now also supported by the US would help to stem the tide of tax evasion and avoidance, and ensure that everyone makes a fair contribution 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 and cooperation to implement them. The Generation Equality Action Coalitions bring together the broad range of actors needed to drive progress forward, including member states civil society, young people, the private sector, philanthropies, and many more, aiming towards a more sustainable and just future, to ensure prosperity for all.