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Calls grow for women's rights in pandemic recovery

By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-29 10:57

Global post-pandemic recovery requires improving the welfare of women and promoting their rights, participants in a Group of 20 meeting on women's empowerment have agreed, committing to achieve gender equality and empowering women.

Indonesia's Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Bintang Puspayoga, who chaired the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, said delegates had supported the idea of increasing women's participation and access to leadership positions, especially as decision-makers.

This is only the second time that the G20, chaired this year by Indonesia, has held a separate session on empowering women. The first time was when Italy chaired the G20 last year.

Women rights advocates welcomed this development, saying women had borne the brunt of the pandemic.

"Issues of women have long been sidelined in global meetings of world leaders, so I think this is a welcome development," said Jean Encinas Franco, associate professor of political science at the University of the Philippines.

Women have been most hard-hit by the pandemic because they are traditionally viewed as caregivers and work as so, she said. And while they are usually praised for their work in caring for the sick and elderly, Franco said, women also want better opportunities as care workers.

Sivananthi Thanenthiran, executive director of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women in Malaysia, said policymakers "need to double-down to ensure that women are able to realize their rights and their fullest potential".

There are three pillars to women's economic empowerment, she said: female entrepreneurship, increasing the bargaining power of women workers through mechanisms such as unions, and being compensated for care work.

The pandemic has led to "regression in women's empowerment", Thanenthiran said.

"This is most clearly seen in girls dropping out of school, a rise in early age marriages, rise in domestic violence (and) lower rate of economic participation."

'Disproportionate toll'

UN Women, the United Nations agency that promotes women's rights, said that nearly one in two women surveyed in 13 countries reported that they, or a woman they know, had experienced at least one form of violence since the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic has also "taken a disproportionate toll "on women's livelihoods. In 2020 women lost 46.6 million jobs globally, a 3.6 percent loss compared with 2.9 percent for men.

The pandemic has also shuttered schools and day-care facilities, raising women's unpaid care and domestic workload. The World Economic Forum said in its latest Global Gender Gap Report that women's share of time spent in unpaid work as a proportion spent in total work was 55 percent, while that of men was only 19 percent. "With rising childcare costs there is a high risk that an asymmetric demand to provide unpaid care work will continue to be imposed on women," it said.

Braema Mathi, a social activist in Singapore, said improving digital literacy is important for women because the pandemic has pushed most people to do many tasks online.

"We went online a lot of times, whether it is to get the groceries delivered, to help children with their education and to make payments online."

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