Cairo and Amman– In the Arab States region, the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker jointly published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) recorded a total of 317 COVID-19 policy response measures in all 22 Arab countries, out of which 108 measures adopted by 20 countries effectively addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls.
The Tracker was presented today at an online event that brought together policy makers, and representatives of national women’s machineries, civil society, academia and international organizations from across the Arab region to discuss policy implications of its analyses.
First published in September 2020 and regularly updated, most recently in March 2021, the global Gender Response Tracker currently includes over 3,100 policy measures across 219 countries and territories. It monitors policy measures enacted by governments across three key dimensions: violence against women and girls; unpaid care work; and economic insecurity caused by large-scale loss of jobs, incomes, and livelihoods.
“Monitoring responsiveness of public policies to the needs and demands of women and girls is an important measure to ensure soundness and effectiveness of policy responses,” said Sarah Poole, Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States in UNDP. “With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic and social crises it has created, such monitoring has become more crucial than ever, as the COVID crisis threatens to erase decades of progress for women and girls.”
The Tracker shows that women are underrepresented in leadership and participation in national COVID-19 response taskforces. In the Arab states, of the 23 taskforces where composition data is available, women constitute only 17% of members - lower than the global average of 24 %.
“A sound response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires key issues faced by women to be recognized and addressed through adequately financed policies”, said Janneke van der Graaff-Kukler, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for the Arab States. “This tracker allows us to identify, learn from and compare measures taken across the globe, and underscores that the leadership and participation of women, which we know is so fundamental to addressing the socioeconomic ramifications of COVID-19, needs immediate attention”.
Women’s participation in the labour force across the Arab region was the lowest in the world prior to COVID-19. About two thirds of women were working were in the informal economy. The crisis has cost the region working-hours equivalent to 17 million jobs. It continues to threaten greater job losses among women and further exclusion from social protection.
However, out of 225 social protection and labour market measures that were tracked in 22 Arab countries, only 53 measures (24 per cent) were gender sensitive. Supporting women and men in the informal economy is one of the region’s biggest challenges, which 19 countries have addressed through a range of social protection measures for women, most notably cash and in-kind transfers. In addition, of the 38 economic and fiscal measures that it tracked in 13 Arab countries, the Gender Response Traker recorded only one measure as gender sensitive.
Women in the region were spending 4.7 times more time on care work before COVID-19 and studies in some countries are showing a sharp rise during the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, out of 108 gender sensitive measures tracked in the region, only 10 measures in 7 countries were addressing unpaid care work including strengthening childcare services, care for the elderly or people with disabilities, and family and paid sick leave provisions.
Cases of violence against women have increased, with a staggering 40 per cent rise in some countries during COVID-19. According to the tracker, governments of 10 countries in the region have responded with 54 measures strengthening services and moving some services online; monitoring data; raising awareness; finding new ways to reach survivors; and speeding up court processes.
“We have to remain vigilant. The COVID crisis is far from over and its impacts will stay with us for some time,” said Salma Nims, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. “The Gender Response Tracker provides all actors, in government and beyond, a useful tool to inform policy-development and advocacy around women’s participation and leadership in the COVID-19 response and recovery.”
Speakers called on participants to help keep the Gender Tracker with up to date information.
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