At the same time, women are on the front lines of response, as heads of state and government, legislators, healthcare workers, carers at home and community leaders and mobilisers, amongst other roles.
Women leaders are in several countries excelling in COVID-19 response, providing powerful examples of how women’s leadership and participation can provide more effective, inclusive, and fair policies, plans and budgets to address the pandemic.
Today, women are heads of state and government in only 21 countries, including four in the Commonwealth (Bangladesh, New Zealand, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago), but several have been recognized as providers of global best practice in response to COVID-19, such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand.
This requires strategic public investment, including equipping front line health workers; delivery of social protection measures that extend to informal workers, recognizing women’s special circumstances and care work; gender impact analyses of fiscal stimulus and targeted financial support to businesses in feminized sectors and women-led enterprises; and high quality, accessible services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
It is vital to ensure that the small allocations that went to support gender equality in the past are not further reduced and that overstretched health services do not divert resources away from essential services women need, such as support for survivors of violence, pre- and post-natal health care and sexual and reproductive health.