Governments, civil society, and the academic and scientific communities need to understand the complexity of COVID-19’s impact from a gender and inclusion perspective to ensure appropriate policy responses and resources.
Open response measures place transparency, accountability, and participation at the center of immediate government efforts to curb contagion and provide emergency assistance.
- Conduct gender analysis of COVID-19 policy responses: “Gender inequities exacerbate outbreaks, and responses that do not incorporate gender analysis exacerbate inequities,” states CARE International. Ongoing gender analysis should inform budget provisions, government benefits and supplements, procurement decision-making, information sharing, and emergency payments and services.
- Collect and publish intersectional demographic data at national and state levels to inform recovery policy responses, keeping privacy and security in mind for person-level data. COVID-specific data should be consistently intersectional and gender-disaggregated for categories such as people tested, and those who tested positive, recovered, and are deceased. Where such data is currently collected, governments are seeing significant gender, age, ability, race, and ethnicity differences in health care access and treatment. For example, data from the US and the UK show that certain racial, ethnic, indigenous and disability communities have higher infection and mortality rates due to increased likelihoods of underlying conditions and historic social inequities that reduce their access to care. Beyond health, robust investment in disaggregated data is needed to guide economic, education, and social policy response and recovery efforts. With this data, governments and civil society can better work together to address specific community needs and fill gaps in service.
- Include women and vulnerable populations in COVID leadership, policy creation, and implementation: Globally, women make up 70% of health care workers but only 30% of health care leadership, 25% of parliamentarians, and 20% of ministerial posts. Additionally, first responders, front line workers like grocery store clerks and cleaners, and caregivers are disproportionately women and those who identify with a minority population. These communities, along with persons with disabilities and the elderly, are also most likely to experience disruptions in services and care support during the pandemic. Collectively, their leadership and participation is vital in shaping effective and accountable response strategies.
- Preserve equal rights legislation, transparency, and accountability: The pandemic and related economic crisis have created opportunities for governments to roll back civic protections and regulations. For example, the U.K. suspended required reporting of corporate gender paygaps, citing an unfair burden during these extraordinary times. However, a government’s inability to understand and close the gender wage gap will only exacerbate the crisis’s economic effect on women and their families. Separately, in Hungary, the government proposed reducing transgender persons’ right to self-determined gender markers as part of the emergency omnibus legislation.
- Increase protections and resources for gender-based violence: Home isn’t always a safe space for people to shelter in place, and rates of family and intimate partner violence are rising during coronavirus. UNFPA estimates that 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can be expected to occur if lockdowns continue for at least 6 months, growing by 15 million extra cases every three 3 additional months.
- Vulnerable communities need increased access to a full range of services that assist with safety, including community-based organizations, mental and physical health services, accessibility, and criminal justice services like law enforcement and judicial advocacy.
- In partnership with women’s and LGBTQIA+ organizations, governments should increase funding and access to crisis services such as phone and text lines and innovative community resources that provide ongoing support to survivors both during and after the pandemic.
- Governments may also consider revising legal frameworks and laws preventing violence and discrimination to address and prevent gendered justice gaps exposed by coronavirus.
- Target resources and information to address social and gender-specific impacts: During this time, many women are experiencing disproportionate burdens of childcare and homeschooling, elder care, and home care. Additionally, they are more likely to be impacted by job losses, hourly reductions, or informal economy closures. Women are also navigating a reduction in access to maternal and reproductive health services, which UNFPA projections say may result in 47 million women losing access to contraception, leading to 7 million unintended pregnancies in the coming months. As response policies are created, these specific economic, health and social needs should be taken into account with consultation, transparency and accountability measures built in to monitor implementation and impact.
- Increase accessible services and resources in collaboration with impacted communities: Those receiving specific government services and funding can provide critical insight into needs and effectiveness of response strategies. This is particularly the case for persons with disabilities, who are facing reductions in critical home and health care services, transportation and educational access, and are disproportionately impacted by inaccessible information on prevention and government assistance. Governments should support the “continuity of inclusive health and social services used by persons with disabilities, including rehabilitation, assistive technology, and personal assistance,” and design and deliver response strategies in partnership with impacted communities. Information on COVID-19 should be shared through a variety of accessible, machine-readable formats and use accessible technologies. Read the open data section of this guide for more information.
Open Recovery and Reform:
Open recovery measures place transparency, accountability, and participation at the center of medium-term government efforts to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19. Similarly, open reform initiatives ensure that the public is at the heart of government in the post-pandemic world.
Open recovery will require continuing the reforms above: gender analysis, inclusive data, representative decision-making, and specific services for those impacted by gender-based violence. Additional considerations include:
- Design recovery responses for those most impacted through consultation and analysis of inclusive and gender-disaggregated data. For example, inequities may prevent people without bank accounts or formal economy sector jobs from receiving social protection services, recovery funds, uninsurance, or social security support. Governments should ensure small business loans and procurement criteria take historic inequities into account and earmark certain funds for women and minority-owned businesses, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic crisis. Ongoing consultation and monitoring is also needed to ensure effective reforms and accountable oversight from diverse stakeholders during recovery.
- Make digital citizen engagement inclusive: Government and civil society use of digital platforms for civic engagement, feedback, and co-creation is a natural solution in this time of social-distancing. However, the digital gap can prevent certain communities from participating online, especially women, indigenous, rural and low-income communities, as well as persons with disabilities with visual or auditory restrictions. Understand the limitations of online deliberation in your community and consider specific outreach to key stakeholders, academia, and civil society groups where access is limited.
- Address gender-based harassment and violence online: Virtual harassment, intimidation and threats of violence can prevent women, LGBTQIA+ communities and persons, and otherwise marginalized or vulnerable communities from participating in online fora. These threats also have potential to translate into offline violence. Government and civil society partners should work together to assess potential threats, create codes of conduct and procedures for violation, designate escalation policies, and implement justice reforms as needed.
The following examples are recent initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are drawn from our crowdsourced list as well as partner materials.
- Mexico: The National Autonomous University of Mexico created an online portal to house data, information, and recommendations related to gender and the global health crisis.
- Croatia: The Croatian Ministry of Interior is working with civil society on the “Behind Closed Doors” campaign, which aims to increase reporting of domestic violence cases during social distancing.
- France: A civic tech organization created a website to connect healthcare workers assistance with childcare and groceries while working.
- The French government will pay for 20,000 hotel nights for victims of domestic abuse and will create pop-up counselling centers at stores in order for women to seek help while they run errands.
- Argentina: Several legal organizations and universities have created a website that provides legal resources in the context of the pandemic to vulnerable groups, including information on reproductive legal rights.
- United Kingdom: Global Health 5050 has compiled a COVID-19 sex-disaggregated data tracker that includes country-level data related to cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and cases among healthcare workers disaggregated by age and sex.
- Hawaii, United States: The state’s Commission on the Status of Women created a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19 in collaboration with stakeholder communities to rebuild post-crisis with policies that address longstanding gender inequities.
- Nepal: NGO Humanity & Inclusion is making COVID-19 prevention messages accessible for people with disabilities.
- International: The International Disability Alliance launched a COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor, through which governments, organizations, and persons with disabilities are invited to complete a survey to highlight the issues people with disabilities face during the pandemic. The new website also displays survey results.
The following examples are commitments previously made by OGP members that demonstrate elements of the recommendations made above.
- Afghanistan (2017-2019): Committed to creating a protection policy for women under conflict and emergency situations.
- Buenos Aires (2016-2017): Created the online platform #DÓNDE that lists health clinics’ locations and services to close the gap in access to reproductive health services.
- Canada (2018-2020): Committed to applying a Gender Based Analysis Plus to all government public engagements and consultations and increase access to gender-disaggregated and inclusion data.
- Colombia (2015-2017): Created an interactive web platform and call center to ensure access to information for blind and deaf citizens.
- Denmark (2012-2014): Provided guidance to public authorities to ensure digital content and services are accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Ecuador (2019-2021): Committed to co-creating a national plan to eradicate gender-based violence.
- Georgia (2018-2020): Committed to increasing persons with disabilities’ political and social participation in Akhaltsikhe and Kutaisi municipalities.
- Jordan (2016-2018): Strengthened the resources available for persons with disabilities in the justice system.
- Kenya (2018-2020): Committed to implementing open contracting with a requirement that 30% of all contracts are awarded to businesses led by women, youth, and marginalized communities.
- Nigeria (2019-2021): Committed to increasing the participation of women, young people, older persons, persons with disabilities, and marginalized groups across government.
- North Macedonia (2018-2020): Committed to conducting a budget assessment for the 2021 Ministry of Health budget, led by the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity, and Equality of Women.
- Sri Lanka (2019-2021): Committed to implementing a Disability Rights Bill in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Uruguay (2018-2020): Committed to engaging persons with disabilities in the monitoring and evaluation of the National Plan for Access to Justice and Legal Protection of Persons with Disabilities.