Sir: The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 uncovered that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed back gender parity by a generation – 36 years! The report also found out that despite progress in education and health, women continued to face economic hurdles, declining political participation and challenges in the workplace.
The shattering effects of COVID-19 on life as world knew it may finally be receding. But as they recede, the world can look at just how completely life was disrupted for some of the world`s most vulnerable demographics. These include women.
Even before the onset of the Pandemic, women were facing considerable challenges in their workplaces. These challenges fell within a broad spectrum which took in discriminatory practices in their places of work as a result of their gender like unequal pay, lack of maternity leaves, longer working hours, sexual abuse among others.
The Pandemic ratcheted up significant pressure on women because the sectors that were hit the most by lockdowns and rapid digitization were those where women were more frequently employed. Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home, the Pandemic halted progress toward gender parity in several economies and industries.
For long, women have been at the forefront of building homes and communities. But sexism is harming women, and crashing economies. It makes work unpredictable, leads to high turnover and reduces productivity. Women who already faced discrimination have felt the biggest impact.
Covid-19 and the wider crises have laid bare existing inequalities. It has highlighted that consciously or not, systems still operate as if women must do the bulk of childcare and housework, that men should get first preference for jobs, that money should go to men first, and that violence against women is an acceptable behaviour, especially if you are stressed. Those biases, combined with COVID-19, have put women at higher risk of violence, dramatically increased their unpaid care work, and pushed them into higher health risks.
Covid-19 also pushed up gender-based violence dramatically, with more women experiencing violence than in previous years. Women`s jobs were also hit hardest and recovered least, while women entrepreneurs were left clinging on to dear life.
If women are unable to work or if they can only work under conditions that deepen inequality and affect their own wellbeing, productivity, as well as the development of the society, can a world that has increasingly come to depend on women come to the full realization of the potentials of this most important contributors to the building of peaceful and prosperous societies? This appears highly unlikely.
The only way to go is to ensure that jobs are available to women and that they do not suffer any discrimination whatsoever in the workplace as a result of their sex or peculiar circumstances.
• Kene Obiezu, firstname.lastname@example.org