First of all, thank you all for joining us: Tim, who is partnering with us to advance our agenda against stereotypes, but also Ashwin, Elsa Marie, Nathalie and Nani.
The whole month of January, we are bringing leaders from all regions to reflect on the progress made in the gender equality agenda but also in areas that seem difficult to tackle, such as stereotyping, gender and cultural norms that reflect themselves in institutional and legal frameworks which continue to produce unequal outcomes.
In this second year of the pandemic, we can easily say that the crisis has had a terrible impact on the world and on women and girls who were disproportionally affected by its many impacts. While some governments were better prepared to handle the impact of the pandemic, others were not.
We have seen the horrific rise of domestic violence everywhere with increases from 20 to 77% in certain places.
We have witnessed women all around the world becoming the main caretakers of their tele-schooled children, spouses and ill relatives; and starting working two full-time jobs when juggling their careers and domestic chores.
We have checked and double-checked numbers. Unlike past crises, this one targets sectors in which women are overwhelmingly represented, highly underpaid and threatens their vulnerable livelihoods in the informal economy.
Did you know that the US Labor Release for December confirmed that job losses were much higher for women than men in the US? 4.4 million jobs were lost for men and 5.4 for women which shows that women are more affected. According to UN Women, the informal job losses for women in these sectors range from 25 to 56 % in Asia and the Pacific!
I would like to underlined that the pandemic did not create these inequalities. It deepened them and exploited them but these flaws and injustices existed long before COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, according to UNFPA, in countries across Asia and the Pacific, surveys indicate that 68% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. During the pandemic, this figure increased largely!
In India, between March and May 2020, more complaints of domestic violence were recorded than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years. Nandida Das, the Indian Actress and Jury member of UNESCO’s Madanjeet Singh Prize, reflected this in her short movie “Talk to Her” which reached 300,000 views only days after its release.
In Nepal, domestic violence increased by 77% after the lockdown compared to the period before it.
Nurses and activists in Sri Lanka urged the government to create more helplines for victims of domestic abuse during the lockdown.
Fiji’s national domestic violence helpline recorded a significant increase in calls in April (around 527 calls), compared to 87 in February and 187 in March.
In the beginning of the pandemic, there were 15 million additional cases of violence against women worldwide for every additional three months of lockdown. Online harassment against women is not part of these cases: statistics on the prevalence of cyber harassment against women during the pandemic indicates rates as high as 40% in some countries in Asia and the Pacific.
Violence against women and girls is structural and reinforced by norms and stereotypes that foster inequalities and tell little girls that they are not good enough.
Together we can engage the world to reflect on our inherited biases and update our mindsets. We all have the potential to become proactive agents of change for a better world and from the earliest age.
At home and in the workplace, women’s contributions deserve more recognition. Gender-diverse workplaces and gender-inclusive management are proven to boost the profit of companies – and therefore the GDP of their countries and the well-being of their employees.
This is the context in which we are, and we call to have whole-of-society approaches to look at legal frameworks, inclusive policies, benchmarks, affirmative action, public and private sector synergies and incentives.
We are going to bring all this together because we want to hear from you: what works? and what do you think could be replicated? What can help us in terms of instruments and inventions for delivering better?
At UNESCO, we are developing ground-breaking projects, spanning from the Men4GenderEquality initiative to Master Classes against racism and discrimination and the intercultural competencies framework, to a Recommendation on the Ethics of artificial intelligence which will be the first global standard-setting instrument to address the ethical and social issues related to discrimination, including gender biases and stereotyping, and the establishment of a global Observatory on Women and Sports.
But if we don’t change mindsets, cultural norms and stereotypes, there will be no progress.
That is why UNESCO is developing a flagship programme to change mindsets against harmful gender stereotypes. We are going to examine and eliminate the origins and consequences of these stereotypes so that they no longer hold sway over our lives and successes, so that they no longer restrict our freedoms, identities, and opportunities, or even hurt our economies.
Last year, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNESCO organized a high-level roundtable with messages from renowned leaders. That day, I launched a powerful call for action to Member States to scale up their efforts to eliminate violence against women and take solid and sustainable commitments.
I renew that Call today by asking you how do we advance a real agenda to counter these harmful stereotypes and cultural norms, and create a wide network of role models and leaders paving the way in the business and private sector, the public sector and with civil society?
We will consult with you and keep you posted on the progress.
I hope that this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership to advance better for women.
Thank you for joining us!