Uneven Asia Pacific government responses . . .
Most Asia Pacific economies are not doing enough to support women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new UN COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker of government policy responses. Of 55 Asia Pacific jurisdictions, 24 (43%) have no gender-sensitive measures at a time of heightened social and economic vulnerability among women and girls. The type of response also matters. Only four countries in the region (7%) have introduced policies addressing all three types of policy responses tracked by the UN: responses to violence against women and girls, unpaid care, and women’s economic security. Of the 182 gender-sensitive responses in the region, the vast majority (147, or 81%) rightly deal with violence against women and girls, but only a few dozen policies further address labour market and socioeconomic needs.
Regional leaders and laggards . . .
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women published the tracker to flag national measures that address, or fall short in responding to, the pandemic’s impacts on women. The UNDP notes that “the COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity” to implement better measures. In terms of the number of gender-sensitive measures, Australia and India led with 16, closely followed by Bangladesh’s 15 and Fiji’s 13. Other large economies lagged: Japan has introduced just three gender-sensitive measures, none addressing labour market issues, and South Korea introduced four, none addressing violence against women. Myanmar (nine) and Cambodia (eight) both led in Southeast Asia in terms of the number of measures introduced, especially on violence against women.
Generation of gains at risk . . .
With a scarcity of measures addressing women’s economic security in the region, and only a few addressing unpaid care, governments in the region risk losing hard-won progress towards gender equality. The UN Secretary-General noted that “we risk losing a generation or more of gains,” specifically flagging that “today, millions of teenage girls around the world are out of school.” With each passing day, the number who will never go back rises. The new UN data illustrates the importance of investing in gender-disaggregated data to track not just what responses are announced, but who these responses most impact or leave behind. We encourage those engaged with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance policy to take note.
- London School of Economics: COVID-19 and gendered governance: countries led by women did not employ more stringent strategies than those led by men – but they did act faster
- Reliefweb: UNDP and UN Women launch COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker
- United Nations Development Programme: COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker