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New York, Mar 27 (Canadian-Media): The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is pledging support for those suffering from invisible impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including women and girls whose access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care may be disrupted, UN reports said.
People living in Lagos State in Nigeria, simulate sneezing into their elbows during a coronavirus prevention campaign.Image credit: © UNICEF/Ojo
In a statement on Friday, Executive Director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, Natalia Kanem, said the Fund’s work is ramping up even as the novel coronavirus continues to test health care systems around the world.
She warned that women, girls and health workers must not be overlooked as the world responds to the greatest health crisis in a century.
Women and girls most vulnerable
As in most crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to critical sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.
UNFPA is helping governments prioritize the special needs of women and girls – often the most vulnerable in times of crises – in line with the Fund’s goals of ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030.
In his appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that women and children are among the most vulnerable in times of war and face the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from the pandemic.
UNFPA has appealed to donors to fund its response plan, which targets countries with weak public health systems including countries in fragile and humanitarian situations. It is provisionally projecting that it will need $187.5 million.
Efforts will focus on bolstering health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement.
Invisible impacts of COVID-19
As communities around the globe grapple with the most immediate effects of the pandemic, overwhelmed healthcare systems and populations in quarantine can also suffer a ripple of additional impacts.
“Now is a time for solidarity, resolve and selflessness. We must not forget that there are people we may not immediately see, who are at great risk as a result of the consequences of the crisis,” said Dr. Kanem.
Those can include pregnant women who require antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to go to the clinic, as well as women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.
Dr. Kanem also pointed to tens of millions of people living in refugee camps – for whom “social distancing” practices are not an option – and older people around the globe who remain isolated and starved of social interaction as they avoid infection.
Meeting ‘intimate, yet essential’ needs UNFPA is working to support affected health systems, in particular by distributing material support to protect health workers and midwives.
In China, Iran and the Philippines, it has distributed essential hygiene and other items to the most vulnerable and personal protective equipment to health workers. In the Republic of Moldova, it has launched an online dashboard which disaggregates the country’s current caseload by location, sex, age and pregnancy status.
However, Dr. Kanem stressed that more work is needed to ensure that the most intimate – yet essential – needs of women and girls are met as the world continues to battle COVID-19 in the months ahead.
“This global scourge requires a global response,” she said, urging the international community to stand up for the dignity and health of women as part of its efforts.
For more information on UNFPA’s response to COVID-19, please visit www.UNFPA.org.
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New York, Mar 09 (Canadian-Media): Despite constraints imposed by the new coronavirus disease, activists for gender equality gathered at UN Headquarters on Monday for the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), to reinforce the message that women’s rights are human rights, UN news reports said.
Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House (Wolesi Jirga or “House of the People”) arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul (2001).
Image credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
Member States adopted a Political Declaration in which they pledged to step up action to fully implement the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality, agreed 25 years ago.
In his opening address, UN Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls remain an “overwhelming global injustice”.
He said the vision of the Beijing Declaration has only been partly realized as progress has stalled, or even gone into reverse, in some areas.
‘Push back against the pushback’
“Some countries have rolled back laws that protect women from violence; others are reducing civic space; still others are pursuing economic and immigration policies that indirectly discriminate against women”, the UN chief stated.
“Women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services is far from universal.
We must push back against the pushback”.
This pushback is occurring even though change has been slow in coming for most of the world’s women and girls. As the UN General Assembly President pointed out, no country on the planet has actually achieved gender equality.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande called for accelerated progress at all levels, particularly as countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“Make no mistake: it is critical that we mainstream gender equality across all of our work if we are to achieve any of the SDGs,” he said. “We simply cannot exclude 50% of the population. It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold our pledge to leave no one behind”
A new generation
The Secretary-General observed that one of the legacies of the Beijing process has been movement-building, amplifying the call from diverse groups of women across the world for systemic change.
A new generation of young activists are also taking the Beijing spirit forward.
Aasha Shaik, 17, addressed the Commission on behalf of young women in Afghanistan, where a peace process is unfolding.
“Afghan women, young women and girls must meaningfully participate in the peace process and political decision-making at all levels in order to ensure sustainable and inclusive peace and development”, said Ms. Shaik, who is a member of the UN Women Beijing+25 Youth Task Force.
“Today, most Afghan women men and youth fear peace with the Taliban may mean war on us, if we are marginalized from the peace process”.
CSW in the time of coronavirus While the CSW normally meets for two weeks in March, its 64th session was compressed to just one day amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“I know that activists and women’s groups around the world share my disappointment. But I also take heart because I know we remain committed to the cause of gender equality”, said the Secretary-General.
CSW provides an opportunity to further galvanize momentum for gender equality and women’s rights that has been growing worldwide, and he urged participants to reaffirm the Beijing promise and its full implementation.
“Let us send a clear message to the world that women’s rights are human rights, and that gender equality is central to all the Sustainable Development Goals”.