COVID-19 era brings on new challenges to women empowerment

The webinar brought together women from all parts of the African continent to “exchange information on the empowerment of women and achieve gender equality”.


Devdiscourse News Desk | Pretoria | Updated: 31-08-2021 14:25 IST | Created: 31-08-2021 14:25 IST
COVID-19 era brings on new challenges to women empowerment
Mlambo-Ngcuka on Monday said the current challenges of gender inequality faced by women must be addressed together with the new challenges brought on by the pandemic. Image Credit: Twitter(@SAgovnews)
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The former Executive Director of United Nations Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, says the COVID-19 era has brought on a set of new challenges for the journey in the empowerment of women.

She was speaking at Africa's Webinar on Informing, Empowering Women and Enhancing Gender Equality hosted by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).

The webinar brought together women from all parts of the African continent to "exchange information on the empowerment of women and achieve gender equality".

Mlambo-Ngcuka on Monday said the current challenges of gender inequality faced by women must be addressed together with the new challenges brought on by the pandemic.

"Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Two-thirds of the jobs that were lost during the pandemic were lost by women. Women were also flooded by unpaid care work.

"Women have no digital literacy so they lost jobs [and] women experienced higher levels of gender-based violence. All these are the issues we have to address as we rebuild after the pandemic," she said.

Despite these challenges, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the Generation Equality campaign, led by the United Nations, is making inroads into empowering women while fighting gender inequality.

"Generation Equality wants to accelerate the implementation of the [1995] Beijing Platform [for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere]. It also wants to be intergenerational and co-create with young people so that we have a future that takes into account younger people.

"We want greater investments in the women's agenda. We want to make sure that when we arrive on the other side in five years when we have finished implementing Generation Equality, we have taken a huge leap forward.

"Yes, the situation is not what it should be but we have options and things we can do to address the situation. If we do not do it, women will suffer. Men need to be part of this process. They are an important part of the answers that we are seeking… in Gender Equality," she said.

According to the United Nations, the Generation Equality campaign "demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, healthcare services that respond to their needs, and their equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life".

Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, told the webinar that women still face serious barriers to economic emancipation in the region.

"While [women] play a key role in the economy, more than 50% of poor populations in the SADC region are women. This is due to a number of reasons including high illiteracy, restrictive and discriminatory laws and limited access to and control of productive resources.

"The economic empowerment of women is central to sustainable development and poverty eradication. Poverty eradication can be addressed meaningfully through programmes that target women and facilitate women's economic independence and the reduction of exploitation," she said.

Tax said SADC is taking steps to address this.

"In 2019, SADC adopted a regional multi-dimensional women's economic empowerment programme, which aims to promote women's economic empowerment and gender-responsive development, and a lot has been achieved."

In her address to the webinar, GCIS Director-General Phumla Williams said women learning from each other on how to address the issues they face accelerates their empowerment.

"We have no illusion that the challenges facing South African women are still huge and we have to pull out all the stops to learn from each other. Some of the solutions that we seek are to make sure that people who come after us don't have to face challenges of safety, justice and inequalities.

"These dialogues are to celebrate some of the successes that we have made and also to appreciate the challenges ahead. This webinar has afforded us an opportunity… to learn from others on the continent.

"This journey of empowering women is not kept to South Africa alone… It is a journey for all of us as women and citizens of this continent," Williams said.

(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)

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