A multilateral approach to the Gender Impacts of COVID-19 at the Intersection of Health and Finance was discussed at the monthly meeting of the NGO NY Commission on the Status of Women. Madeleine Brecher, ICJW’s representative to the NGO CSW in New York reports on this important virtual meeting that she attended on 18 June, 2020.
The current coronavirus pandemic has not only created a global health crisis by straining health infrastructures and national budgets. Institutions are predicting a global economic recession and financial setbacks from COVID-19, which are derailing any advances in financing for development and gender equality as a more complete picture on the impacts of women and girls is emerging. Women are bearing a disproportionate brunt of the healthcare costs. Despite best efforts, no country or region can solve the crises on their own. The June monthly zoom meeting explored this topic and discussed a potential recovery through a multilateral lens with excellent speakers from various sectors including civil society, government and the United Nations agencies.
Dr. Nata Menabde: Executive Director of the WHO office at the UN made the following points:
- Social networks were upended and there was no access to essential services.
- No clear picture on the overall effect upon women because sex and age data unavailable.
- Women silent because of: stigma attached to covid-19, discrimination, and anxiety.
- Women represent 70% of the health network so they had very high exposure.
- By 2030, only 40% of women will be covered with essential health services.
- Governments must step in and invest in long term health care.
- There are critical ethical and financial implications involved.
Nafissatou Diop, Chief, Gender and Human Rights Branch, UNFPA (UN Population Fund) made the following points:
- There were thousands of unintended pregnancies but no access to maternity care in lockdown.
- There were over 31 million cases of gender based violence and 30 million child marriages.
- Few national responses: men are the decision makers and too few women in leadership.
- In Africa, no access to testing and few facilities were open to access services
Crystal Simeoni, Afrifem Macroeconomics Collective in Kenya made the following points:
- Who were the essential workers holding the economy up during the pandemic? The Women!
- There were no public/private partnerships.
- Private investment is NOT doing its job. The financial world was not heard from.
- Nothing is being produced inside the countries, i.e. the US stopped producing masks, ventilators.
- UN Women is grossly underfunded .
- There must be global solidarity to provide solutions
Crystal J. Rogers, Community Organizer, NY State Nurses Association made the following excellent observations about the medical system in New York:
- Nurses in NY were ONLY getting access to new PPE every five days.
- Unions were desperately training ICU personnel on the ground.
- Black and Latino persons dying at twice the rate of white people.
- The situation in NY hospitals was a disaster.
- Essential workers had to go to work or risk losing their jobs.
- In Queens, NYC, 47.5% are foreign born, there is a housing crisis and it led the country in covid cases.
- Female essential workers took the subway to work, safety standards were relaxed, they were exposed to the virus, and they came home to their families.
- Nurses who volunteered from out of state were paid more than the nurses from Queens.
- Under the circumstances, public hospitals did an excellent job of moving the PPE.
- In case of a surge in the Fall, need labor/management partnerships, protective policies and community collaborations.
- Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio CUT Medicaid during covid-19 for immigrants and the poor.
UN Statement on the Impact of COVID-19 on Women
In April 2020, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued an important policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women, in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Secretariat. He wrote:
“The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex. This policy brief explores how women and girls’ lives are changing in the face of COVID-19, and outlines suggested priority measures to accompany both the immediate response and longer-term recovery efforts.