The COVID-19 global pandemic will have long-term consequences for our societies and the global economy. It is imperative to implement a gender-sensitive approach in the responses to the pandemic and in the recovery phase – to make these measures more effective and ensure that no one is left behind. The European Commission thus launched a series of webinars on gender equality aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, as part of the Mutual Learning Programme in Gender Equality. Although the problems are similar, Member States may be tackling them in different ways. The webinar series provided an opportunity for sharing and discussing different approaches and possibilities.
The events were organised in the framework of the European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and addressed its main pillars – Free, Thrive and Lead.
- The European Institute for Gender Equality’s dedicated website on COVID-19 and gender equality
- The Commission’s Horizon 2020 “Gendered Innovations” Expert Group’s case study on The impact of sex and gender in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s report: How will the COVID-19 crisis affect existing gender divides in Europe?
- European Women’s Lobby’s policy brief: Putting equality between women and men at the heart of the response to COVID-19 across Europe
- The Joint Research Centre: Economic sectors at risk due to COVID-19 disruptions: will men and women in the EU be affected similarly?
- Gender and COVID-19: A guidance note for parliaments
- UN Women: Four lessons from COVID-19 that should shape policy decisions everywhere
- UN: Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women
- OECD: Women at the core of the fight against COVID-19 crisis
Webinar 1: Good practices for tackling domestic violence in the context of COVID-19
The webinar that took place on 19 May 2020 featured good practice examples from Member States addressing different aspects of tackling domestic violence in the context of COVID-19: the implementation of a comprehensive strategy (Spain); tools and actions facilitating victims seeking help and reporting violence (the Czech Republic) and how to continue the work with perpetrators during a lockdown (Slovenia).
In the webinar it was stressed that establishing domestic violence services as essential services is an important foundation for supporting victims and helping services to adapt to the challenges posed by the crisis and the subsequent recovery phase. Awareness raising, communication and outreach initiatives, that reach victims in all their diversity and ensure they are aware of the available protection measures and support services, are also key.
- The European e-Justice Portal’s “Victims of crime - support and protection during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic” section
- The Council of Europe dedicated resource page on national measures taken to prevent and combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on equality between women and men
- WAVE policy statement on COVID-19 and violence against women and girls
Webinar 2: Gender equality aspects of work and care in the context of COVID-19
The second webinar in the series on gender-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic took place on 18 June 2020 and addressed two related gender equality themes: care and work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s burden of care increased following the closure of childcare facilities, schools, care services for elderly and disabled people. In addition, many women work in jobs on the front-line in the health and social care sector, education, and retail, which are often low paid and insecure. Good practices on valuing care work and encouraging its equal sharing included Belgium’s “special COVID-19 parental leave benefit” and measures introduced in Malta to support work-life balance through tele-working. The second theme of valuing women’s work featured good practice measures from France on empowering women in the labour market and the new post-COVID-19 action plan on gender equality, and from Italy on tackling gender business challenges during and after the crisis, in particular through a special fund for female entrepreneurship.
During the webinar, it was stressed that gender-sensitive responses are urgently needed, as the COVID-19 pandemic has not only had a disproportionate impact on female-dominated jobs and reinforced gender roles , but also because there are long-term economic and social consequences that will impact gender equality. Key issues include protecting women working in the most precarious jobs, promoting women’s employment and entrepreneurship, and ensuring the equal sharing of care responsibilities between women and men, alongside access to good quality care services.
- European Commission’s portal on work-life balance
- Women in the labour market / Work-Life Balance
- EIGE, COVID-19 and gender equality
- European Women’s Lobby, Women must not pay the price for COVID-19!
- European Women’s Lobby, Purple Pact: A feminist approach to the economy
- COFACE, Resources on Work-Life Balance and Gender Equality during COVID-19
Webinar 3: Gender-balance in decision-making in the context of COVID-19
The third online seminar in the series on gender-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic was held on 14 September 2020. The seminar addressed good practices from Member States around three key themes related to gender-balance in decision-making. Under the first theme, gender-balanced decision-making on COVID-19 response and recovery measures, good practices were presented from Italy and Sweden. The Italian Task Force ‘Women for a new Renaissance’ has set priorities for gender equality and gender-balanced decision-making in the context of the COVID-19 recovery. In Sweden, the government has sustained its commitment to gender mainstreaming and all COVID-19 response measures are assessed for their impact on women and men. In addition, robust measures are in place to ensure that all appointments to public boards and committees are gender-balanced. The second theme on enhancing women’s representation in the public sphere featured a good practice from France, which analysed women’s under-representation in the media during the pandemic with a view to improving women’s visibility and representation in the media and their related roles in decision-making. The third theme featured intersectional voices and included the perspectives of minority women. A good practice from a national umbrella NGO in Germany, supported by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, showed how an intersectional perspective can improve the voice and representation of migrant and refugee women.
The seminar highlighted that urgent action is needed to achieve gender-balanced decision-making in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, without which the recovery process risks missing the voices and perspectives of women and undermining progress towards gender equality. The participants stressed the need for gender mainstreaming in social, economic and cultural policy responses and the need to ensure the representation of diverse voices of women in decision-making.
- Italy: Report of the Task Force ‘Women for a new renaissance’
- France: Final report on women in the media in times of crisis (in French)
- CARE: Where are the women? The conspicuous absence of women in COVID-19 response teams and plans, and why we need them
- Harvard Business Review: Will the Pandemic Reshape Notions of Female Leadership?
Compilation report: Gender-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 crisis
In April 2020, the European Commission sent out a questionnaire to Member States enquiring about their gender-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 crisis, in particular in relation to the FREE, THRIVE and LEAD pillars of the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. The responses to the questionnaires were the basis for the three COVID-19 webinars mentioned further above.
The compilation report summarises the responses to the Commission’s questionnaire as well as the outcomes of the three webinars held in 2020.
The first section looks at a range of comprehensive strategies and concrete measures implemented by Member States to address domestic violence and to ensure that victims can access support and protection in the context of COVID-19. The second section focuses on approaches enabling women to thrive, for instance by easing the disproportionate burden of care work on women, addressing job losses in female-dominated sectors and valuing women’s contribution in the labour market. The third section summarises policy measures in Member States to empower women in decision-making and ensure that their voices are heard in COVID-19 crisis responses and recovery. The fourth section describes other gender-sensitive COVID-19 measures reported by Member States which do not fall within the three main pillars of the Gender Equality Strategy. Some final remarks are presented in the last section.