The United Nations lamented the slow pace of progress in women’s rights globally and warned of a further slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a report published on Tuesday.
The World’s Women 2020” report found that the world has only achieved modest gains in terms of women’s rights and economic empowerment and that according to measures of employment and domestic violence, the situation has not improved since the first report 25 years ago.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that “progress towards equal power and equal rights for women remains elusive.”
“No country has achieved gender equality, and the COVID-19 crisis threatens to erode the limited gains that have been made,” he added.
The report also found that while men have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 related problems, women were more likely to be infected — women make up 70% of health care workers on the front lines against the infection.
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“They are at high risk of contracting the disease, and they are also, of course, at the frontlines fighting the pandemic on behalf of everyone,” said Francesca Grum, UN chief social and gender statistician, at a virtual media conference.
Lockdowns also likely increased the risk of domestic violence, according to the report. Data already showed that 18% of women reported experiencing phsyical and/or sexual violence from their partner in the past 12 months.
“While robust statistics on the impact of COVID-19 are still being produced, there are reasons to believe that the pandemic is likely to increase the risk that women may experience different forms of violence, specifically intimate partner domestic violence: 15 years of survey data show that the great majority of women survivors of violence never report it to the police, helplines or other service providers,” the report said.
The failure of progress in women’s education to lead to improvements in professional and financial well-being was a particular source of disappointment.
The report explained that despite equal numbers of girls and boys going to elementary and high school, and more young women attending university than men, as a global average, fewer than half of the world’s women were employed in the paid labor market in comparison to three quarters of men.
The Kayan village near Mae Rim is a popular tourist destination in the vicinity of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. Known for its Long Neck women, the village used to have a steady influx of visitors from around the world. But, without any foreign tourists visiting Thailand, the village is now empty.
Mu Ei is 32 years old, and, like most people in the village, she is of Kayan ethnicity. Some girls start wearing neck rings when they are just 5 years old.
At the entrance of the village, the ticket stand sits empty, as no visitors are expected. Before the pandemic, the Kayan village saw a steady stream of visitors every day. Most of them came from China.
Thai tourists are not as intrigued by the women as foreigners are. Mu Ei and others who have been made reliant on tourism for income are waiting for visitors to be permitted to return.
Mu Ei prepares a crude fire to cook dinner for her family in the small yard in front of their bamboo hut. She cooks very basic food such as rice and bananas. There isn’t enough money for other ingredients.
Mu Ei has two children, aged 2 and 6. She is very concerned about her family’s future. The only income her family is currently able to generate is through her husband’s sporadic jobs in construction and agriculture.
Mu Ei and other women from the village receive food from an aid organization at the entrance of the village. Mu Ei said she used to make over 600 baht (€16/$20) per day before the pandemic began. Now her daily income is close to 0.
A teddy bear is left behind by a family that left the village because of fears of COVID-19 and not having any money to live on. The majority of Kayan people are from Myanmar, and many have returned since the pandemic began.
Despite the lack of tourists and no guided tours, Mu Ei lays out her souvenirs every day, optimistic that tourists will visit the village. Under Thailand’s pandemic travel regulations, tourism-dependent livelihoods like hers based on tourism will be difficult to maintain.
The gap between men and women in terms of job market participation was the same as in 1995, when the members of the UN pledged to improve women’s rights. A similar commitment to achieving gender equality by 2030, agreed in 2015, has also fallen flat.
Job market participation was particularly low in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia, where rates fell below 30%. The share of women in managerial positions was the same as in 1995 while there were only eight more female heads of state compared to 25 years ago.
ab/aw (Reuters, EFE, dpa)