Spotlighting Women Leadership in Responding to COVID-19 in Developing Countries

Jun 17, 2020 | Events, Webinars

25 June 2020 – The webinar, organized by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), brought together women champions from southern governments of Costa Rica, India, South Sudan, and Thailand to share their experiences in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in their countries.

From the economy to their health systems, to their homes, COVID-19 is affecting girls and women hard. The pandemic threatens to increase gender inequalities. Women, in particular, will be the most impacted financially.  They constitute 70 percent of health workers globally and provide 75 percent of unpaid care, looking after children, the sick and the elderly.

Women are also more likely to be employed in poorly paid precarious jobs that are most at risk. Additionally, they are at risk of violence. Gender-based violence has been increasing globally due to stay at home orders, further impacting women’s safety and wellbeing. For example, emergency calls for domestic violence cases have increased by 25 percent since the lockdown on March 20 in Argentina.

While bearing the brunt of health emergencies, women are also on the frontlines “saving lives as first responders in hospitals, finding solutions as innovators and standing up to the crisis as political leaders”.  Experience from the Ebola, HIV, and current COVID-19 crises in developing countries show that women, who comprise the majority of health workers, have played a central role when health systems are strained. However, women leaders remain underrepresented. Emergency response taskforces around the world are overwhelmingly dominated by men. More broadly, only 25 percent of legislators and 6 percent of state and government leaders are women worldwide. To ensure sustainable relief and recovery responses to the pandemic, policy, and decision-makers across all sectors must present a gender dimension in all decisions in order to respond to the needs of women and girls, especially during health crises.

During the webinar, the speakers discussed (1) their experiences is supporting their country and local communities in addressing the impacts of COVID-19; (2) why and how to place women’s needs and leadership at the heart of effective responses to COVID-19; and (3) the role of South-South and triangular cooperation in advancing women’s voice and decision-making in COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery. This webinar aimed to contribute to South-South exchange of experiences; spotlight women’s leadership and representation in COVID-19 decision-making and to raise awareness about incorporating gender-responsive actions during and after the crisis through cooperation amongst countries, including South-South and triangular cooperation.

Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) moderated the discussion.The following is the details of the speakers. The discussion was followed by a Q&A session

  • Mr. Jorge Chediek, UNOSSC Director and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation (Opening Remarks)
  • H.E. Mrs. María del Pilar Gonzalo Garrido, Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy, Costa Rica
  • H.E. Smt. K. K. Shailaja Teacher, Minister of Health, Social Justice, Women and Child, Government of Kerala, India
  • H.E. Elizabeth Acuei Yol, Minister of Health, South Sudan
  • Dr. Soawapak Hinjoy, Director of Office of International Cooperation at the Department of Disease Control, Thailand