SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC)—Head of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, has underscored the importance of gender equality, saying that it is “a key factor for sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth” in the region.
The ECLAC executive secretary told a virtual seminar, organised by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), that “the future post-COVID-19 needs women”.
The seminar, 'Domestic Violence: What companies can do to combat increased violence in this context of crisis', is one in a series of gatherings held as part of the 'Win-Win: Gender Equality is Good Business' programme, begun in 2018 by UN Women in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and with funding from the European Union.
“With the opening up of confinements that is taking place, I think we have to prepare ourselves more than ever to ensure there are no roll backs in women's economic autonomy and their leadership within companies, and to be able to promote gender equality, advance the presence of women in decision-making, for striking a balance between work and care work, safeguarding their salaries, and of course upholding standards of inclusive communication,” Bárcena said.
She warned that COVID-19 will cause the deepest recession in the region since 1914 and 1930, with a -5.3 per cent drop in regional gross domestic product (GDP) this year, “which will have a sharp impact on unemployment along with effects on poverty and inequality.
“We have estimated that unemployment could rise by 12 million people and that 107 million women in the region may find themselves in situations of poverty,” she said. “Violence against women is intensifying greatly at this time.
“That is why it is very important to map government initiatives on gender matters during the crisis,” Bárcena added. “To that end, we have created the COVID-19 Observatory in Latin America and the Caribbean to compile and disseminate the public policies that the 33 countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region are implementing.
“I invite companies to help us include the measures they are taking as well,” she continued.
According to ECLAC's executive secretary, policy measures must be focused on five key thematic areas for women's autonomy and gender equality: prevention, assistance and responses in the face of violence against women in the context of confinement; domestic and care work in the home in contexts of confinement; protection of women's jobs and income; benefits, cash transfers and other social protection measures for women in diverse circumstances; and women's participation through digital media and as key actors for containing the pandemic.
She said that special measures must be taken for health sector workers in the region, since more than 70 per cent of them are women.
“We have insisted on the importance of breaking the statistical silence with regard to women, with initiatives like ECLAC's Gender Equality Observatory,” Bárcena said. “There we have recorded, for example, that in the last 12 months, 1 out of every 3 women had suffered emotional, patrimonial, physical or psychological violence perpetrated by their intimate partners.
“In addition, as of December 2018, at least 3,800 women had been killed in femicides,” she added.
Bárcena said that new protocols should be designed to ensure women have lives free from violence.
“We can see concrete action in countries,” she said. “Governments are aware of the need to protect women, their jobs and their income, above all in times of confinement.
“I think we are making progress,” she added. “However, the realm of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is perhaps where the biggest challenge lies, and where we will have to take action.
“When the economy slumps, which is what is happening today, and demand is not being generated by production activity, without a doubt the State's job is to boost demand,” Bárcena continued. “That is very important.
“Today more than ever, gender equality in companies is a key factor for confronting this crisis,” she said.