UN Women response to COVID-19 crisis

Toothbrushes and menstrual pads are sorted to pack dignity kits for women in prisons and quarantine centres. Photo: UNFPA El Salvador
UN Women and UNFPA have distributed more than 1,300 dignity kits containing essential hygiene supplies such as soap and menstrual pads to women living in quarantine centers and prisons in El Salvador. These distributions, coordinated by the United Nations country team, came alongside a digital awareness-raising campaign on how to prevent infection and transmission of the virus. Photo: UNFPA

UN Women has developed rapid and targeted response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls and to ensure that the long-term recovery benefits them.

UN Women’s response to COVID-19 includes policy advice and programmatic interventions and is part of the broader UN-wide response. Throughout the world, UN Women’s response focuses on five priorities:

  1. Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, is mitigated and reduced
  2. Social protection and economic stimulus packages serve women and girls
  3. People support and practise equal sharing of care work
  4. Women and girls lead and participate in COVID-19 response planning and decision-making
  5. Data and coordination mechanisms include gender perspectives

A global programme proposal was developed to support this response: Gender-responsive prevention and management of the COVID-19 pandemic: From emergency response to recovery and resilience (Russian version).

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, is mitigated and reduced

UN Women focuses on six areas in its response:

  • Prevention and awareness-raising
  • Support for rapid assessments
  • Access to essential services, including helplines and shelters
  • Violence against women in public spaces
  • Support to women’s groups

UN Women is monitoring and/or undertaking rapid assessments of violence against women and girls and COVID-19 in many countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Fiji, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Morocco, Palestine, South Africa, Tonga, Tunisia and Vanuatu. The Safe and Fair programme in Asia Pacific reports increased risk of sexual exploitation and violence by police and armed guards at border controls, and heightened risk of psychological violence to women migrant workers who lost their jobs and are no longer able to support their families.

UN Women focuses on prevention of violence and access to essential services, such as health, justice and policing, social services, helplines and coordination of these services, to provide support services to those who have experienced and/or witnessed violence. In Cameroon, CAR, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, UN Women is strengthening access to essential and quality services for women survivors of violence during the pandemic. UN Women is also supporting partners to update referral pathways and service delivery protocols, including with police and justice institutions in Bolivia, Ecuador, South Africa, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu.

Social protection mechanisms and economic stimulus packages properly serve women and girls

UN Women focuses in four areas to address this impact:

  • Support for assessments and policy advocacy to drive accurate policy responses
  • Support to women-owned enterprises
  • Private sector engagement
  • Gender-responsive procurement

UN Women is already supporting women-owned enterprises across all regions. In the Arab States and Latin America and the Caribbean, UN Women is focusing on economic sectors impacted by COVID-19 that employ women, including tourism and hospitality. Through guidelines and capacity building on how to develop tools and plans, UN Women aims to mitigate the risks and impact of the outbreak in the informal sector.

In South Africa, UN Women is offering a suite of virtual learning courses through online classrooms with partners such as Google and MTN. This virtual set up is assisting 4,500 women-owned businesses to apply for and access government stimulus funding.

In Georgia, UN Women, in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, has conducted interviews with over 80 women small business holders—mainly in the agriculture sector and from rural communities—on the impact of COVID-19.

UN Women is also mobilizing cash, essential supplies and food to provide relief to those in need. In Senegal, UN Women is purchasing rice from women producers, which the Government has distributed to vulnerable families who receive monthly cash transfers. In Lebanon, UN Women is utilizing the cash-for-work and job placement programmes to provide unconditional cash transfers. In Jordanian refugee camps, UN Women is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure direct-cash based interventions through blockchain technology and OneCard Platform.

People support and practise equal sharing of care work

UN Women focuses on three key areas to address this issue:

  • Support for needs assessment and development of adequate public policies
  • Support to care workers, including domestic workers
  • Behaviour change campaigns

In Argentina, an online survey on care and remote work was developed jointly with the International Labour Organization to collect inputs for strategies and public policies. In Ecuador, in partnership with UNDP, cash transfers to women are implemented in a “cash for work” modality using the social assistance delivery database of the Ministry of Inclusion. Special subsidies to support women providing unpaid care services in response to COVID-19 in El Salvador are under development.

Changing social norms to support equal distribution of care responsibilities is urgent in the current stay- at-home context. The #HeForSheAtHome campaign seeks to inspire men and boys to help balance the burden of care in their households. UN Women Morocco is working to encourage men and boys to share domestic and childcare work with women, including with children’s education. UN Women Malawi is supporting awareness-raising and sensitization of influencers, youth networks, and faith-based and traditional leaders on COVID-19, and addressing cultural practices that might impact the spread of the disease. UN Women Lebanon will launch a joint awareness raising campaign with UNDP on social norms, sharing care work and stopping domestic violence. In Latin America, the Campaign CaringForWork in partnership with PAHO, WHO and ILO raises the visibility of women working in health and other care tasks.

Women and girls affected by COVID-19 lead and participate in decision making

UN Women focuses on four key areas under this priority:

  • Convening leaders and decision-makers to advocate for the importance of women’s leadership in the response
  • Support to women’s organizations and women on the front lines of the response
  • Support for women living with HIV
  • Awareness raising campaigns and social mobilization

Support to women’s organizations through UN Women’s Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund, the Spotlight Initiative and the Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women will continue and expand, though adapting to new realities that constrain movement and access due to COVID-19.An extensive series of consultations with civil society organizations across the Europe and Central Asia region, covering 18 programme countries/territories and involving 128 women’s organizations, is generating actioanable policy recommendations. In Bangladesh, Camps-in-Charge Gender Officers are working in 12 camps are focusing on supporting COVID-19 preparedness and response activities, as well as cyclone and monsoon preparedness and overall support for cases of gender-based violence and other protection issues.  In Myanmar, UN Women is mobilizing, empowering and equipping women-led organizations — especially Rohingya women-graduates from the Rakhine Gender Leadership Programme to create community awareness and knowledge on prevention and response to COVID-19. In Nepal, UN Women convened 17 leaders representing women’s and marginalized groups’ organizations and networks, including organizations of persons with disabilities, LGBTI organizations, and Dalit women organizationsacross the seven provinces of Nepal to identify emerging issues and jointly advocate to the government and the Humanitarian Country Team. A platform that includes more than 30 women organizations and partners in Gaza and the West Bank in Palestine was created to provide a space for information sharing and to amplify the voices of women’s organizations in the humanitarian processes, especially in relation to the COVID-19 preparedness and response plans. 

Data and coordination mechanisms include gender perspectives

UN Women is providing direct technical support to governments and UN partners to make sure that national response strategies meet women’s and girls’ needs. In Lebanon, UN Women works with WHO to support the protection and gender-response and supports the Government’s national response. Gender experts are deployed to support the Tunisian Government’s response to COVID-19. In Timor-Leste, UN Women is providing technical assistance to line ministries to ensure the state of emergency declared incorporates gender and protection considerations. In Viet Nam, UN Women and UNICEF are supporting the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to develop codes of conduct and safeguarding measures for women and children in quarantine centres set up as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In Paraguay, the advisory services to the Ministry of Women are provided jointly between UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women. UN Women in Jordan has collaborated with the Jordanian National Commission for Women to develop a guidance document on integrating gender into COVID-19 preparedness, planning and response.