Covid-19: Protecting Women’s Economic Rights

 
In this moment of global health and economic crisis, women around the world are facing unprecedented challenges which directly threaten their economic rights and the empowerment that allows them to exercise their rights. Job cuts, loss of livelihoods, increased unpaid care responsibilities, increased exposure to gender-based violence, eroding access to critical sexual and reproductive healthcare, and, for the 70%of frontline health and social workers who are women, a real threat to their lives.

 

In response to the economic global crisis developed as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have started implementing austere contingency measures to address the financial impact of the crisis, including layoffs and factory closures across value chains with largely female workforces, resulting in a disproportionate effect on women2. In addition to loss of employment, in these circumstances women are also at greater risk of being subject to abusive labour conditions, exposed to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, and being frontline unpaid caregivers without adequate protections. For those women who are also internal or international migrants, these risks are magnified. Moreover, many may have lost or become separated from family members, becoming sole earners, as well as risk being trapped and unable to reach their homes due to lockdowns.

Experiencing a decline in private sector activity, high unemployment and weak public services, women are resorting to skipping meals and selling their few remaining assets, if any. A heightened risk of gender-based violence may force women into commercial sexual exploitation or girls into child labour or early marriage. Households are also thrown into crisis with increased intimate partner violence by male partners and declined access to justice, healthcare, and other resources and public services.

Win-Win Strategies works to catalyse a transformative, cross-sectoral approach to sustained women’s economic empowerment. In this context of imminent global humanitarian crisis, more than ever, Win-Win Strategies is advocating for the urgency to leverage the expertise and resources of companies and women’s funds and women’s rights organisations to limit the impact of the pandemic on women’s economic rights and empowerment.

As concrete actions, Win-Win Strategies is channelling resources towards institutional strengthening of women’s funds and local women’s organisations so they are healthy and robust when this crisis has passed. At the same time, we are exploring options on how we can best support women on the frontlines of the pandemic through engagement with various companies and industry associations. At implementation level, Win-Win Strategies is working with funders and partners to design alternatives to our regular programming which address the immediate priorities of protecting women’s economic rights and limiting the impact on women’s economic empowerment on the ground. Internally, we are also launching a financial sustainability and resilience plan that will safeguard our operations in the immediate emergency and throughout the economic downturn to follow. Win-Win Strategies has committed to three key principles that will guide our response during this crisis:

1. Advocate for the prioritisation of women’s economic rights and empowerment worldwide and highlight the specific risks the pandemic is posing in this area.

2. Drive resources and expertise towards financial resilience of women’s funds and local women’s organisations in an effort to keep them alive, healthy, vibrant and ready to continue advocating for women’s economic rights and empowerment after this global crisis is over.

3. Take a collaborative and coordinated approach with the corporate sector that leverages expertise and resources towards a women-centred approach to emergency response to the pandemic and that will both address immediate needs and build resilience for the future.

 

World Health Organisation. Gender equity in the health workforce: Analysis of 104 countries. Mathieu Boniol, Michelle McIsaac, Lihui Xu, Tana Wuliji, Khassoum Diallo, Jim Campbell. Health Workforce Working paper 1. March 2019.
In Kenya, 65-75% of women are employed in the Cut Flower Industry. In Ecuador, they are 80% of workforce. 70% of labour in coffee production is provided by women. Approximately 80% of garment production workers are women. Source: https://ilostat.ilo.org/