On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Conference on Women, the Women 20 (W20), an official G20 engagement group whose primary objective is to ensure gender considerations are mainstreamed into G20 discussions and policies, calls on G20 leaders to commemorate 2020 as the Year of Women in recognition of their role battling the COVID-19 pandemic and as agents of economic recovery. There has never been a more critical time for action to address the barriers women and girls continue to face.
This year is momentous for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Twenty-five years ago, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights—the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—was released. However, the COVID-19 pandemic puts the gains made in past decades at risk, as pandemics exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities for women and girls and expose vulnerabilities in the social, political and economic systems.
Unless urgent action is taken, women stand to bear the brunt and be disproportionately left behind. Already beset by systemic disadvantages, women face mounting challenges in the face of COVID-19. Women make up the majority of health workers, putting them at increased risk of exposure, while at the same time COVID-19 related job loss, reduced working hours, and financial hardship have also disproportionately impacted women. These challenges are compounded by growing formal and informal care demands as well as escalating violence against women as a result of lockdowns.
“We urge G20 leaders to immediately address the gendered impacts of this pandemic and ensure an inclusive economic recovery. This is an opportunity to propel forward changes the Beijing Conference on Women called for twenty-five years ago—labor and financial inclusion, and crucially, inclusion in decision making—changes the W20 has continued to advocate for over the years to ensure women and girls have an equal chance to reach their full potential,” said Dr. Thoraya Obaid, W20 Chair.
The W20 calls on G20 leaders to recognize, affirm and realize women’s human rights by acting on the following:
· Adopt universally accepted women’s rights standards as outlined in the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
· Repeal discriminatory laws and ensure that all women are able to realize their human rights and exercise all aspects of social, economic, and political participation and empowerment; and
· Protect civic space for women’s leadership, organizing and defense of their human rights in line with international law and human rights standards.
On 21 October 2020, W20 will issue G20 leaders with two sets of recommendations. The first set will underscore the key measures required to expedite the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The second set will help the G20 achieve the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the objective of strong, sustainable and balanced growth by supporting women’s social and economic empowerment.