SEATTLE, Washington — UN Women is continuously on the forefront fighting against COVID-19 and its disparate effects on vulnerable populations. UN Women especially focuses on aiding women and girls that live in poverty and are subject to human rights violations. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, they implemented solutions to fight against gender inequality, domestic abuse, discrimination against migrant workers and economic inequalities.
Women face stark economic inequalities; they are generally low-paid, work in informal jobs and have little to no social protection and health insurance. The livelihoods of 55 million domestic workers worldwide, largely made up of women who work in sectors such as hospitality or retail, are affected by the pandemic.
Many women also work in care work that is unpaid and directly connected to wage inequalities, decreased access to education and immense mental health burdens. In response to gender inequality exacerbated by the pandemic, UN Women is working toward implementing policy measures that help redistribute care work between men and women so women don’t have to bear the brunt of unpaid work. They are advising governments on how to support programs that provide income to women struggling during the pandemic. UN Women also supports awareness-raising efforts for women and girls in countries with poor health and social protection systems.
Due to worldwide lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19, reports of domestic abuse and gender-based violence have been increasing. Cramped living conditions, lack of free movement and increased stress have triggered upticks in domestic violence. Lack of technology and disrupted support services and safe-shelters have also made the situation of women more precarious.
In response to increased domestic violence, UN Women seeks to provide support and access to support services. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is providing resources and aid to women’s organizations while monitoring reports of violence during the pandemic in countries such as Malawi, Egypt, South Africa, Libya and Palestine. UN Women is also supporting initiatives to reinforce services such as police and justice organizations against domestic violence in Ecuador, Sudan and South Africa.
Female migrant laborers are one of the poorest and most insecure populations. Because most female migrant workers are employed through the informal economy, they don’t have ready access to healthcare and stable contracts. Human rights violations such as long working hours, decreased access to services and justice, restrictions on movement, harassment and gender-based sexual abuse are also obstacles female migrant workers have to face during the pandemic.
Many reports of sexual abuse may also go unreported since undocumented or irregular migrant laborers fear arrest or deportation if they speak up. To help female migrant laborers, the International Labor Organization – UN Women created the Spotlight Initiative Safe and Fair Programme to provide support and justice to female migrant workers. Services include providing legal aid to abused women, raising more awareness on the negative impacts the virus has on female migrant laborers and advocating for governments to provide social and health services for migrant workers.
Although many women are girls are left in poverty and vulnerability from COVID-19, solutions and programs led by UN Women seek to help affected women. UN Women is fighting against COVID-19 through initiatives focus on decreasing gender inequality, providing aid and prevention of domestic abuse and supporting female migrant workers during the turbulent times of the coronavirus pandemic.
– Silvia Huang