Gender alert on Covid-19 in Papua New Guinea (5 August 2020)

Originally published



UN Women issues this alert to highlight the gender-specific impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on women’s lives. This alert outlines the value and importance of women’s participation and leadership in humanitarian and political action. It focuses on why women’s leadership and meaningful participation is a right, and can lead to more sustainable responses to crisis.

Inequality between women and men hinders women’s ability to influence and participate in crisis planning and response. With this in mind, this alert concludes with a set of recommendations for consideration by key national and international stakeholders in Papua New Guinea to ensure women’s needs are effectively addressed in the COVID-19 response. UN Women PNG is committed to advancing the rights and meeting the needs of women and girls, including in the COVID-19 response.


COVID-19 comes at a time when gender inequality, widespread gender-based violence, and weak rule of law and service delivery are negatively impacting Papua New Guinea’s economic and social development. Despite the presence of capable women leaders and activists able to contribute to PNG’s development, peacebuilding and COVID-19 response efforts, women remain underrepresented in political, health, humanitarian and economic decision-making forums.

Papua New Guinea is one of the least urbanised countries in the world, with approximately 85 percent of the population living in rural areas with very limited infrastructure. As a result, service delivery is a considerable challenge in many remote areas. The country has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.740, ranking it 161 out of 162 countries in 2018, and 155 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. Overall, women spend less time in school, experience high rates of maternal mortality and adolescent births, have limited access to law and justice services and participate at a lower rate in the formal labour force than men. While difficult to capture a comprehensive picture of violence against women and girls across the country, regional findings suggest it is pervasive.