The Covid-19 crisis has put a spotlight on existing structural inequalities and the different realities that women and men are facing because of the pandemic.
Women are at the forefront of dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 70% of workers exposed to the virus in health and social care, trade professions, cleaning services and personal care provision are women. Loss of income, deteriorating working conditions, closure of schools, changes in daily life and the home quarantine put an added burden on women, who traditionally take on more responsibilities at home and in the family and struggle to find jobs in the formal labour market. The Covid-19 crisis has severely impacted low - and middle-income countries, due to poor public health systems, education, social protection, and infrastructure. These countries need international support to face the pandemic.
Moreover, violation of international laws and United Nations (UN) resolutions and conventions including violence against women and girls (VAWG) – especially domestic violence – has been on the rise because of the lockdown measures. Globally, there is increasing disregard for international laws. The closure of appeal and rescue services creates additional difficulties. It becomes harder to manage and deal with cases of violence and protect victims whose safety and lives are in danger.
The 4th Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society (2017, Cairo) is an important tool to advance women’s rights and therefore a reference to address the impact of the pandemic on women and girls.
Having analysed the effect on women and girls, EuroMed Feminist Initiative (EFI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan organised on September 21, 2020 a regional policy dialogue “Combating VAWG and Strengthening Women´s Rights in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”. The dialogue took place on-line, bringing together decision-makers and ministerial representatives, legal and gender experts, researchers, and women’s rights organisations from seven countries in the Euro-Med region (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia), the European Union (EU) and the UfM.
These recommendations stem from the policy dialogue to support the implementation of the 4th UfM Ministerial Declaration during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond. They are based on the ministers affirmed international obligations and commitments stated in the 4th UfM Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society and are structured under the key priority areas identified by member States in the 4th UfM Ministerial Declaration:
- Raising women’s participation in public life and decision-making
- Raising women's economic participation
- Combating all forms of violence against women and girls
- Challenging cultural and social norms and eliminate gender stereotypes, particularly in and through education and media
- Fostering implementation and strengthening operational cooperation
The recommendations will inform the next UfM High-Level Conference “Accelerating Gender Equality in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic” on 16-20 November 2020.