The COVID-19 pandemic is having the most profound impacts on those already experiencing poverty and marginalization, in Canada and around the world. As the virus spreads, the world’s poorest countries – including those already experiencing high levels of conflict – will be hit hardest. In every country, the pandemic will exacerbate existing gender inequalities.
Catastrophic health outbreaks have profound differential impacts due to the gendered social determinants of health. As the health crisis ripples out into the economy, families and social institutions, these gender dimensions multiply. Unless human rights and gender justice are prioritized from the onset in actions to combat COVID-19, gender inequalities around the world will be exacerbated, and hard-won gains will be rolled back. We cannot let that happen. Too much is at stake.
2020 was envisioned as a year to celebrate and make significant new progress on gender equality. Plans were underway to accelerate global efforts to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. COVID-19 has only underscored the urgency to resume these initiatives. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned COVID-19 is deepening existing inequalities – it is having “devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls” that could reverse the limited progress towards gender equality achieved over the past 25 years.
Gender inequality holds back progress on governance, human rights, peace, economic performance, food security, health, well-being, environmental protection, and social progress. The security and stability of our countries is linked to the status of women, transgender, and non-binary people. This is why women’s rights and gender justice must be at the heart of the global response to COVID-19.