On 9 April 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General launched a policy brief on “The impact of COVID-19 on Women” that showcases how COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. The report provides recommendations to strengthen women’s leadership and ensure that their valuable contributions are at the heart of resilience and recovery. Currently, UN Women in Europe and Central Asia is engaged in consultations with partners – including governments, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, private-sector companies and other development actors – to find practical solutions for delivering COVID-19 response and recovery efforts that recognize the needs of women and girls and their central role in making these efforts most effective.
The Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the 4th World Conference on Women in China 25 years ago, lays out the need for institutional mechanisms to serve as catalysts for significant political change on gender equality. As such, the creation of gender equality mechanisms was one of the critical areas of the Platform, to inspire institutional change. Gender equality mechanisms, also referred to as women’s machineries, are government institutions which serve as the central entity responsible for implementation and integration of gender equality measures across policies and programmes. They are often the key drivers of action plans to achieve the goals set forth in international agreements on women’s rights such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Gender equality mechanisms can take different forms, including as ministries and high-level commissions, and are usually located at the highest level of government. The authorities of such mechanisms vary; however, they remain a vital voice for working towards and achieving gender equality at the country level. Gender equality mechanisms are crucial partners for UN Women to support Member States to design laws, policies, programmes and services needed to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In May 2020, UN Women initiated online consultations with gender equality mechanisms from 14 countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey, Eastern Partnership and Central Asia sub-regions to discuss challenges and priorities for the gender dimensions of the short- and long-term COVID-19 response. The consultations were attended by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér, who highlighted the need for concrete action to ensure that all policies and programmes regarding public health protection, preparedness, resilience and response take full account of women’s needs.
This summary provides an overview of the discussions during two online meetings with gender equality mechanisms, including key issues raised, conclusions and recommendations.
“We must utilize the windows of opportunity created by the pandemic to avoid further rollback, by placing women’s leadership and contributions at the heart of resilience and recovery.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women