Written by Anju Rakesh & Athira Premarajan
As per the latest update in the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, over 176 million Covid cases have been reported across the globe. In over 1.5 years of its impact, it has disrupted lives and challenged the sustainability of all things known to humans. As termed by Oxfam Report, the ‘Inequality Virus’ has not even spared the existing social, economic, and gender-based developments that the world has been striving to achieve for the past few decades.
Amidst the disproportional effect of the crisis, that has majorly affected the balance and progress of women and girls in the world, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) in association with UN Women co-created a state-of-the-art gender lens, to mitigate a portion of the impact by highlighting the gender-responsive actions of countries across the globe in tackling the aggravated impact of the pandemic. The COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, measures and monitors policies implemented by governments of countries across the globe in response to the Covid-impact on women and girls. Collecting the feeds through official documents, media coverage, and Covid-19 Policy Trackers, UNDP jointly with UN Women measures the policy structures across 206 countries and territories. Gauging the impact based on two broad criteria of government responses which are women’s participation in the Covid-19 task force and policy measures by the national government, the tracker analyses a total of 3112 measures under the categories of:
- Women’s Economic and Social Security
- Unpaid care work
- Labour Market
- Violence against Women
In the region-based analysis, Asia stands in the first position to have ‘registered gender-sensitive measures’ at a whopping 94%. While Europe falls two points behind with 92% gender-sensitive measures, the third position is shared by Africa and the Americas with 80% successful registration. Looking deeper through the gender lens of India, there are a total of 35 measures adopted (Out of 3112 total number of measures by all countries in the list), out of which 18 are gender-sensitive measures and the number of measures taken against violence against women is 11.
Scrolling through the task force data, which comprises any institution established by the government in response to the pandemic crisis that addresses public health, economic recovery, and enforcement, countries like Jamaica (14), New Zealand (7), Canada (6), Chile (6), Finland (5), South Africa (5) leads the race with the highest number of task forces. India’s proud initiative is – The Covid-19 Task Force established by the PM to action government responses to Covid-19. This Multi-sectoral decision-making committee has 13% women members.
Following up the gender-responsive measures taken by the Indian government, under the social protection measures, it is heartening to see accelerated traction towards implementing initiatives for empowering women with financial support, especially to the rural women. Under the Orunodi Scheme, the state of Assam offers financial support for families, where the nominee mandatorily has to be a female member of the family. Rs 500 per month is offered as support to all female Jan Dhan Accounts for three months, and cooking gas cylinders are offered free of cost for three months to women who benefit from the Ujjwala Scheme.
Under the violence against women measures, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released guidelines for local health centers to ensure continuity of shelter and counselling facilities for women survivors. Along with it is the launch of toll-free helpline numbers and special WhatsApp numbers (by the National Commission for Women) provision, and SMS reachability. The collaboration of the Ministry with Twitter to identify keywords related to domestic violence is one of the essential initiatives worth mentioning, which among others makes India one of the countries to be listed in the countries predominantly focusing on combating gender-based violence during this period.
Deferral of taxes for industries like air transport, hospitality, and small companies impacted by lockdown, provision of EPF for employees and employers by the government for firms with up to 100 workers, where 90% workers earning less than Rs 15000 are a few of the schemes under the economic and fiscal measures.
While the countries and their administrations are taking huge leaps in terms of gender responsiveness, the efforts are surely reversing the previous studies’ findings regarding the slow development of women towards parity. The pandemic is often referred to as a blessing in disguise that has restructured the entire system the world has been running with. And such measures like the Gender Tracker are establishing the cause and cure, with accurate reports of data being updated regularly, which is slowly helping in the progress towards parity.