MINISTER of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya says there is a disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces despite them making up the majority of front-line workers.
During the virtual International Women’s Day celebration organised by Women Focus Canada Inc, Saturday, Siliya appealed to national governments to focus on addressing domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty in order to achieve an equal future in a COVID-19 world.
The 2021 International Women’s Day is being commemorated under the theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, across the world, women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty. National governments need to focus on addressing these issues to achieve an equal future in a Covid-19 world. We have observed with regret that despite women making up a majority of front-line workers, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces. National governments and global bodies should ensure that there is change in this regard,” she said.
“The need to uphold women’s rights and to fully leverage the potential of women’s leadership in pandemic preparedness and response is not optional. National governments and global bodies have no choice but to integrate the perspectives of women and girls in all of their diversity in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in all spheres and at all stages of pandemic response and recovery. We do not need to be reminded that now is a time for solidarity, resolve and selflessness. The Covid-19 pandemic requires a global response, without leaving anyone behind. It is beyond political ideologies, racial differences or social strata.”
Siliya lamented that women had been victims of unwarranted and unacceptable marginalisation, which has deprived them of their human rights.
“World over it is recognised that systems do not favour women. This has been the position even during the pre-Covid-19 era. Women have been victims of unwarranted and unacceptable marginalisation, which deprives them of their human rights. They remain at the bottom of the social strata, with poor access to land, credit, health and education. Women, especially in Africa, continue to be denied an education, often the only ticket out of poverty. It has been observed that disparities between girls and boys start in primary school and the differences widen up through the entire educational system,” she said.
She emphasised the need for development policies that place emphasis on women contributions to the economy to be put in place if women are to escape poverty.
“We now acknowledge that to enable women to escape poverty, development policies should place more emphasis on their contributions to the economy. It has been realised that even though women make up a significant proportion of the economically active population, their contribution is not fully recorded. This is primarily because they are mainly engaged in family farming or in the informal sector and, in other cases, what they do, such as household work, is not considered an economic activity,” she added.
“To achieve an equal future in a COVID-19 world, national governments need to address the persistent pre-existing social and systemic barriers that deny women opportunities for a decent life and hinder their participation in leadership.”
And Siliya also urged governments and global bodies to do more to ensure that the most essential needs of the people, especially women and girls are met while the world battles COVID-19.
“I wish to make an earnest appeal to national governments and global bodies to come to the aid of all those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic: those undergoing treatment for COVID-19; those who are confined in isolation and not able to earn an income, those whose businesses have ground to a halt and those unable to access finances to retain children in school, among others. On this International Women’s Day, being celebrated in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic mayhem, lets come together and stand up for the dignity and health of women and girls. National governments and global bodies need to do much more to ensure that the most essential needs of the people, especially women and girls are met while we battle COVID-19,” said Siliya.
“Financial resources, at both personal and national level, are being depleted in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. This may lead to social stress and government over-expenditure. Government over-expenditure, resulting from the Covid-19 response, may lead to reduced national capacity to deal with other diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, malaria, HIV/AIDS, among others, which may lead to more family leaders dying and leaving social challenges especially for women and children. Girls may even drop out of school. In most countries, Zambia inclusive, with each passing day, the scale of the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences are becoming more apparent and alarming. At family level we are witnessing mental stress, job losses and even loss of loved ones and breadwinners. Continued deaths of breadwinners may decimate families, relegating them to poverty forever.”