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Coronavirus and gender: Women on frontline need to be included in pandemic response

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Coronavirus and gender: Women on frontline need to be included in pandemic response
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Coronavirus has hit all aspects of society, but gender divisions are beginning to show.

Women make up 70 percent of health and social workers, putting them at greater risk.

Other industries where women dominate have seen heavy job losses, but those in charge of policy responses are predominantly male.

"We do need to make sure that we are paying special attention to their needs such as ensuring personal protective equipment, conditions of work that do not tax them and their immune systems, as well as policy measures that show that women are included in decision making," says Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women, adding, "if you turn on the TV and you look at who is talking about the pandemic, it's mostly men."

With 90 countries in lock down, four billion people are now sheltering at home and the UN sees a shadow pandemic growing: violence against women.

Latest reports show a 30 percent increase on average. In Europe, France saw a rise of 30 percent, in Argentina 25 percent and Singapore 35 per cent.

António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations has urged governments to make prevention of violence against women a key part of their national response plans.

The UN says evidence is also mounting that the economic impact of COVID-19 will hit women harder, as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs.

Short and medium-term recovery strategies should include programs that build women’s economic resilience for this and future shocks.

"So what we need right now, specifically, is for the EU enable and make sure that governments are able to invest in central public services into the long run and are not having austerity imposed upon them," explains Joanna Maycock, secretary general, European Women's Lobby.

"What we need is to make sure that in designing stimulus packages or investment injections; those are built around real reality of people's lives and the reality of women's work. So we need to make sure that gender perspective is brought into the design and rolling out of those investments and funding mechanisms as well."

Mainly in less developed countries, women also face increasing difficulties in giving birth safely and accessing sexual and reproductive health services and family planning.