2020 has not been a good year for women. They have suffered more than men from the coronavirus crisis and have experienced many setbacks in terms of gender equality. Nonetheless, there were positive developments: in 2020, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stepped up its advocacy on behalf of women and girls in particular and implemented its largest emergency response. never carried out.
Women have been more impacted than men by the coronavirus crisis and have experienced an increase in unemployment and poverty. There were more early and forced marriages as well as more gender-based violence (GBV). In some countries, cases of domestic violence have increased by 30%. Women also face greater risks when it comes to tackling the pandemic, given that they represent around 70% of healthcare workers globally. These are some of the findings of UNICEF’s annual report on gender equality.
Despite the coronavirus crisis, UNICEF has achieved some success in the health sector. The child welfare organization has advocated for maintaining important health services for mothers during the pandemic. By the end of 2020, 38 countries had planned to scale up maternal and newborn care – seven more countries than in 2019. Seventy-one countries, 14 more than the previous year, have integrated guidance nutrition to antenatal care.
UNICEF has recorded declines in adolescent HIV infection rates and maternal mortality rates around the world. In both areas, according to the report, the numbers are still too high for the organization to meet its own goals.
School education was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis in 2020 (for more information, see also Enakshi Dutta on our D + C / E + Z platform). UNICEF has advocated for equal learning opportunities under Covid-19 restrictions. The child protection organization has also supported gender-sensitive distance education in humanitarian settings such as refugee camps. According to UNICEF, 301 million children have received distance education, of which about half are girls. Nonetheless, the report acknowledges that school closures have raised concerns about the learning outcomes of girls in particular.
In addition, UNICEF has supported governments in their efforts to increase inclusiveness and remove bottlenecks in education policies. In 2020, 53 countries included menstrual health and hygiene (MHS) goals in their strategies for water, sanitation and hygiene in schools. MHH has been implemented in nearly 10,000 schools, and more than 70,500 schools, including those for children with disabilities, have received separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls.
UNICEF has expressed concern over the increase in gender-based violence. It reacted by increasing its assistance and prevention services. UNICEF and its partner organizations are now also offering more of their services online. According to the report, 4.2 million children (including more than 1.25 million girls) who have suffered violence have been affected by health, social action and justice services. In 83 countries, 17.7 million people in emergency situations benefited from interventions to mitigate, prevent or respond to the risks of GBV.
An important aspect of UNICEF’s work is its efforts to transform harmful gender roles and norms. During the pandemic, UNICEF often used online platforms to achieve this goal. In 2020, the organization was able to reach around 2.6 million parents and caregivers in 87 countries. UNICEF also always prioritizes the inclusion of boys and men in its programming.
In order to promote gender equality in the future, UNICEF plans to coordinate more closely with other United Nations organizations and continue intersectoral cooperation. Its objectives are:
- Strengthening the role of girls and ending child marriage
- Investing in the health of women and girls in relation to HIV, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health
- Promote girls’ education
- End violence against girls and
- Promote gender equitable parenting and care.
UNICEF also wants to be better prepared for future emergencies comparable to the Covid-19 pandemic and to include the promotion of gender equality in these measures.
UNICEF, 2021: Gender Equality – Global Annual Results Report 2020:
Sabine balk is a member of the editorial team of D + C Development and Cooperation / E + Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.