Six women’s issues explained with emojis


Originally published on


COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of society, from health to home life, to employment and the global economy. The pandemic and preventative measures have really emphasized society’s reliance on women, and the inequalities they have been facing for so long.

On the frontlines of fighting COVID-19, women are health professionals, community volunteers, transport and logistics managers, scientists and more. And at home, women are facing increased unpaid care work responsibilities, as well as less access to sexual and reproductive health and an increased risk of domestic violence.

Take a closer look at some of the urgent issues women are facing during the time of COVID-19, and we ask you to use your voice and platforms to spread the word.

This #WorldEmojiDay, yes, there is such a day, use social media (and emojis!) to join us in speaking up about these issues by downloading and sharing our emoji advocacy GIFs about women and COVID-19, available here:

1) Violence against women and girls

Since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence, has intensified.

Before the pandemic, estimates said one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime.

As economic and social stresses rise, and movement is restricted by lockdown and stay at home guidance, instances of violence are likely to increase.

At home, survivors of domestic violence may be trapped with their abuser, with limited access to support services, healthcare and justice systems.

And in public, women are at heightened risks of violence navigating deserted public spaces and transportation.

2) Gender pay gap

Women are on the front line of COVID-19 response. Globally, 70% of health and social care workers are women, yet they get paid 11% less than their male counterparts.

Around the world, women are at the frontline of the COVID-19 response as they make up the majority of health and social care workers, especially as nurses, midwives and community health workers, and account for the majority of service staff in health facilities as cleaners, launderers and caterers.

Yet, an average gender pay gap of around 28 per cent exists in the health workforce.

Once occupation and working hours are accounted for, the gender pay gap is 11 per cent.

Although the health sector performs well regarding women’s participation, it still harbours discrimination against women in earnings, and full-time employment and leadership roles for women is lagging.

3) Digital gender divide

Not all students can continue their education online while schools are closed.

Studies online has become the new normal.

But not everyone can continue their education online while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, because internet access remains a privilege.

Many around the world, including girls from poor households cannot participate in remote learning, since they lack the required tools, skills and technologies.

It was already a dire disadvantage that girls, women, and marginalized groups are least likely to have access to technology, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has moved so many aspects of daily life online, the lack of connectivity has become even more alarming, exacerbating existing gender inequalities.

“COVID-19 has been the most disruptive global force in a generation. And where there is disruption, there is the potential to rebuild, reimagine, and create a radically better world”, wrote UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Plan international CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen in a recent op-ed. And the time to act is now.

4) Informal work and instability

There are 740 million women working in the informal economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected women’s livelihoods and income.

Women typically earn less and hold less secure jobs than men.

With economic activity at a halt during the pandemic, women working in the informal sector have seen a dramatic decline in their capacity to earn a living.

Adding on to the loss in income and paid work, many women are also juggling an increase in unpaid care and domestic work.

This can change. It’s on all of us to share the added burden of unpaid domestic and care work at home and speak up for a gender-aware response to the economic shock of COVID-19, including supporting women in the informal sector.

5) Period poverty and stigma

Periods don't stop for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Even before the pandemic, women and girls have been facing discrimination when they menstruate.

In some parts of the world, they are seen as dirty, untouchable, or a disgrace. Whether it’s a lack of money to buy pads, tampons, or other products, access to toilets, or discriminatory laws and practices, women and girls, especially the world’s poorest, are deeply impacted by their periods.

And it’s especially challenging for women and girls to manage their periods safely and with dignity during a crisis.

The provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions is essential to protecting human health. Yet, today 500 million women and girls globally are estimated to lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. This puts women and their families at greater risk of infection.

Periods don’t stop for the COVID-19 pandemic, and neither should our efforts to break harmful taboos about menstruation and end period poverty.

We must continue to speak up for the human right to manage periods safely and in dignity, and promote safe sanitation at all times.

6) Underrepresentation as leaders in health

Only 30% of leaders in the global health sector are women.

Countries across the world are thanking their health workers today.

Women make up 70 per cent of the health and social care workforce, and they are more likely to be front-line health workers, especially as nurses, midwives and community health workers. This exposure raises women’s risk of infection.

In fact, infections among female health care workers are up to three times higher than among their male counterparts.

Yet, women remain in the background of decision making, underrepresented in health sector leadership, and missing from the centre of the COVID-19 response.

Along with thanking our healthcare workers, lets also push for long-term structural change. We need more women leaders in the global health sector and beyond to ensure that the unique needs of women and girls are addressed in the COVID-19 response.