Webinar on Ending Violence against Women: Protecting Gains in Times of Emergency

By Allie Kim

On 23rd November 2020, UNWOMEN hosted a webinar on ‘ Violence against Women: Protecting Gains in Times of Emergency.’ This webinar was held in commemoration of the international day for the elimination of violence against women. The presentation given by three speakers summarises the recent analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls as well the responsive on a domestic level as well as regional level. The speakers also raised concerns regarding the current status of domestic and global response not being sufficient, given the adverse impact of the pandemic imposed on the women and girls. The presentation was followed by the discussions on the way forward and policy recommendations and was closed with the recognition of the fact that there are still challenges remained and more actions need to be made.

Will the pandemic derail hard-won progress on gender equality?

Ms Antra Bhatt, a Statistics Specialist in the Research and Data section of UNWOMEN, presented UN WOMEN’s newly launched gender and COVID UN WOMEN reports, ‘will the pandemic derail hard-won progress on gender equality?’. The results of the research show that the pandemic will derail the effort on gender equality. From the evidence gathered, COVID has brought adverse effects on women and girls.

Multidimensional impacts on women and girls in times of COVID

First of all, Ms Bhatt presented that the diversion of funds to the pandemic response is hampering women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services. According to her, a decrease in funds due to COVID response for women and girls has brought negative impacts, especially in the areas of maternal and child health. For example, In many developing countries such as Zimbabwe, provision of quality services(e.g. C-section and skilled birth) has significantly dropped since COVID. Since 72 per cent of health care workers are women, hence the group of women have been impacted the most from COVID.

Moreover, she argued that pandemic exposes women’s precarious economic security. Marginalised communities are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Compounded economic impacts are felt by women who are generally earning less and holding insecure jobs, including a dramatic decline in incomes of women in the informal sector. She added that women are also carrying ‘unpaid care burden’, which made it more difficult to achieve SDG goal 5, women do three times more domestic work than men. Even though COVID-19 has intensified women’s unpaid care and domestic workloads, few measures have been directed at supporting families to reconcile paid and unpaid work, including care needs. Most of all, Ms Vhatt pointed out that the violence against women has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. Women with disabilities, who even before the pandemic were twice as likely to experience violence at the hands of partners or family members, are at increased risk.

Ms Bhatt concluded that UNWOMEN is projecting that by 2021, 45 million will live in extreme poverty (1.9 $ per day). Women and girls will continuously be in the majority of these poverty group. Therefore, women and girls need urgent help, especially after COVID. Further suggestions were made, inter alia, i)recognise, reduce and redistribute the increased burden of unpaid care and domestic work, ii)address the pandemic’s economic impacts and the devastation of jobs and livelihoods, and iii)improve gender data collection and disaggregation of data by multiple dimensions.

Gender Strategies of the Colombian Government: Its Successes and Limits

Prof. Lina Céspedes-Báez, a Colombian lawyer and a professor of Universidad del Rosario, shared Colombia’s strategies on gender equality during COVID with best practices, and her suggestion of way forward.

The strategies that the Colombian government has imposed to overcome domestic violence during COIVD in Colombia. The Colombian government introduced the measures to tackle issues of domestic violence, and lost of challenges were expected forward mainly due to lack of technical experience and capacity. The pandemic has posed additional difficulties for people in Colombia. In light of this situation, the government issued a decree to continue the work of family commissioners, to provide attention and preventive measures on domestic violence. This decree protects evidence regarding right to life, offer transportation, telephone legal advice, hearings and other services needed.

Professor Céspedes-Báez pointed out the work of the family commissioner’s has brought some positive changes in women’s lives, but she added that it had shown limited success. For example, the 2019 ombudsman indicated several incapacities of the family commissioner, including several approaches deemed was insufficient or inadequate. She also pointed out what should be noted that the perpetrators were relatives or 43%, 26% is a person who is known to the victim, 50% is former intimate partners. Data indicates that only a few cases were brought to justice.

In conclusion, she proposed several takeaways from the Colombian model in formulating gender-responsive policies and strategies that accommodate new public health challenges. To begin with, the needs for digital technology all aspects of our lives. The transition from in-person to remote, digital is the most difficult challenges to overcome(juridical int were not prepared to conduct litigation) and not proper infra was prepared. Unemployment impacted women as they lost bargaining power. The unemployment rate for women was up by 28%, and the age group of 25-54 ages were most affected.

Gender-responsive policy in time of COVID in Eastern Caribbean countries

The last presentation was given by Ms Tonni Bordber from UN WOMEN Eastern Caribbean office. Ms Brodber highlighted that women in the Eastern Caribbean region were among those severely affected by the pandemic. Women in eastern Caribbean countries are far more likely than men to work in accommodation and food services, a proxy measure of employment in the tourism, which is the sector that was hit the hardest in the COVID-19 environment. To prevent further sex segregation, UNWOMEN launched the initiative called “CARICOM” to provide support to those women and further, empower them economically. Under the UN joint programme, UNWOMEN seeks to assist the case of gender-based violence, with the view that income support may not be sufficient to address systemic poverty and help them to escape violent home and relationships.