Women’s Lives Upended, Rights Eroded amid COVID-19, Secretary-General Says in Message for International Day, Warning Impact Will Outlast Pandemic
Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for International Women’s Day, observed on 8 March:
The COVID-19 pandemic has erased decades of progress towards gender equality. From high job losses to exploding burdens of unpaid care, from disrupted schooling to an escalating crisis of domestic violence and exploitation, women’s lives have been upended and their rights eroded. Mothers — especially single mothers — have faced acute anxiety and adversity. The consequences will far outlast the pandemic.
But women have also been on the front lines of pandemic response. They are the essential workers keeping people alive and holding economies, communities and families together. They are among the leaders who have kept prevalence rates lower, and countries on track for recovery.
This year’s International Women’s Day highlights the transformative power of women’s equal participation. We are seeing it ourselves at the United Nations, where I am proud that we have achieved gender parity in UN leadership posts for the first time in history.
The evidence is clear. When women lead in government, we see bigger investments in social protection and greater inroads against poverty. When women are in parliament, countries adopt more stringent climate change policies. When women are at the peace table, agreements are more enduring. And with women now serving in equal numbers at the top leadership posts at the United Nations, we are seeing even more concerted action to secure peace, sustainable development and human rights.
In a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, gender equality is essentially a question of power. Males are an essential part of the solution. I call on countries, companies and institutions to adopt special measures and quotas to advance women’s equal participation and achieve rapid change. As we recover from the pandemic, support and stimulus packages must target women and girls specifically, including through investments in women-owned businesses and the care economy.
Pandemic recovery is our chance to leave behind generations of exclusion and inequalities. Whether running a country, a business or a popular movement, women are making contributions that are delivering for all and driving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is time to build an equal future. This is a job for everyone — and for the benefit of everyone.