The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has warned that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is worsening existing gender inequalities.
In a video message on Thursday, Guterres said the little progress in gender equality and women’s rights over the decades was at risk of being reversed by the disease.
He said although there were indications that the virus might be killing more men than women, it was having “devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls”.
He said: “Nearly 60 per cent of women around the world work in the informal economy, earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty.
“As markets fall and businesses close, millions of women’s jobs have disappeared.
“At the same time, as they are losing paid employment, women’s unpaid care work has increased exponentially as a result of school closures and the increased needs of older people.
“These are combining as never before to defeat women’s rights and deny women’s opportunities.
“Progress lost takes years to regain. Teenage girls out of school may never return.”
The message followed the launch of a report titled, “Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women”.
The 16-page document explores how the novel disease is changing the lives of women and girls.
It suggested measures that should accompany both the immediate response and longer-term recovery efforts.
Guterres urged governments to “put women and girls at the centre of their efforts to recover from COVID-19”.
“That starts with women as leaders, with equal representation and decision-making power.
“Measures to protect and stimulate the economy, from cash transfers to credits and loans, must be targeted at women,” he said.
The Secretary-General also advocated the expansion of social safety nets for women and recognition of unpaid care work as a vital contribution to the economy.
“Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone,” he added.