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The Recovery of Women

Women and girls have suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 crisis – including in terms of job losses, domestic violence, mental-health problems, and an increasing burden of domestic labor and childcare. Will governments put their needs at the center of the post-pandemic agenda, and which priorities should come first?

In this Big Picture, María Fernanda Espinosa, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly, argues that achieving anything close to true gender equality will require addressing deeply entrenched patriarchal rules and norms that perpetuate women’s subordinate status in the home and in the labor market. Similarly, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark notes that unequal power dynamics are still evident in public perceptions of women’s suitability for leadership roles, despite female political leaders having outperformed their male counterparts during the pandemic.

Improving the post-pandemic economic prospects of women and girls, argues Yale University’s Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, will require renewed attention to old problems. That means policies to provide flexible work schedules, ensure universal free childcare, and keep girls in low-income countries in school.

Turning to the Asia-Pacific region, Parimita Mohanty and Annette Wallgren of the UN Environment Programme urge governments to foster a post-pandemic recovery that benefits rural women by supporting green energy and women-led businesses, and promoting female digital literacy. Likewise, Palesa Libe, a co-founder of the NGO Green Tech, argues that narrowing Africa’s digital gender gap would enable the continent to thrive in the new economy being ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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