The emergency derived from COVID-19 is causing specific impacts on women and it is deepening existing gender inequalities. This health emergency is exacerbating structural gender issues, as well as the intersecting dimensions of structural discrimination such as race, class, age, sexual identities, disabilities, migrant status, pregnancy, among others worsening the current situation.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has established that disease outbreaks like COVID-19 affect men and women differently; and also, that pandemics worsen the inequalities that women and girls already face. For instance, worldwide, women represent 70% of staff in the social and health sector. Consequently, they are a vulnerable group under a higher risk of exposure the infectious disease. Given that, special attention should be paid to details such as how their work environment can expose them to discrimination, as well as to their sexual and reproductive health, and psychosocial needs as health workers.
The gender approach is essential to face this crisis, it is an analytic strategy that includes different elements like the differential impact that decisions can have for men and women; the opinion, experience and concerns of women and men at different moments of the political cycle; and the benefits that adopted measures could bring in terms of reducing the inequality gap between men and women.
The gender approach is fundamental now, especially when in the international context some sectors have questioned basic consensus regarding women’s rights that were agreed more than 25 years ago, like the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Fourth International Conference of Women held in Beijing. Because of this, it is fundamental that countries strengthen the gender approach in their analyzes and evaluations. Also, states must ensure that women can participate in the decision-making processes to respond to the crisis.
In this sense, not taking into account a gender approach during this pandemic will deepen inequalities with effects that will last in the long term and will be difficult to reverse. Without a doubt, the COVID-19 has had unequal impacts on women and men. Therefore, this is once again a situation that evidences how urgent it is to build up a resilient future framed through gender equality and inclusion, and how important it is for the countries to generate gender-sensitive health public policies. Thus, the big challenge for governments and international organizations is to lead their populations towards equality and to fight for the well-being of the population as a whole, including women.