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COVID-19 led millions of women into poverty, says UN

By Oluwaseun Sonde

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The Secretary General of United Nations UN, Antonio Guterres has said that millions of women are being pushed further into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis, and other forms of violence against them are rising.

In his remarks on the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25th November, Guterres said he’s heartened to see so many governments taking action to address gender-based violence during COVID-19.

According to him, “Violence against women and girls is a pervasive global human rights challenge, rooted in unequal gender power relations, structural inequality and discrimination.

“The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls as a global emergency requiring urgent action. Rates of violence, in particular domestic violence, have dramatically escalated around the world.

“It is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated risk factors and laid bare the shortcomings of previous efforts to prevent and respond to this shocking emergency”, he said.

In April this year, Guterres urged the international community to end the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence once and for all, and make prevention and the redress of violence a key part of national responses to COVID-19.

“My appeal was answered with strong commitment and support from 146 Member States and Observers. I reiterated and relaunched that appeal several times, while I will do it again today”.

He noted that millions of women are being pushed further into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis, and all forms of violence against them are rising.

“In this context, the global community must continue to build on the momentum we have created to prioritize the voices, experiences and needs of women and girls.

“We must take into account the needs of women who experience violence, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination”, he said.

He added that emerging from this crisis with women’s leadership front and centre in constructing the solutions “we need which include urgent and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations, who act as first responders during crises.

“It is critical that services for survivors are regarded as essential and remain open, with adequate resources and measures in place to support health and social services to care for survivors of violence.

“Programming should also prioritize the quality and continuity of police and justice sector responses. But measures should not only focus on intervening once violence has occurred. They should aim to reduce the risk of violence occurring in the first place.

“This includes providing financial and material support to women and households; encouraging positive messaging around gender equality, stereotypes and engaging key stakeholders, including women and girls, men and boys, and traditional and faith-based leaders”.

Guterres further said that the more the world know about the gender-based violence, the more it can effectively address it. “For this reason, measures should also focus on supporting institutions to collect and analyze data, where it is safe and ethical to do so.

“We have already made much progress in highlighting violence against women and girls as one of the most pressing issues of our time. Violence against women and girls is a horrible and widespread affront to their human rights, and a blight on all our societies”, he said.

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