The economic and social fallout of Covid-19 has largely landed on women’s shoulders denying women and girls access to some of their basic human rights. As we mark International Women’s Day 2022, we stress that there remains an urgent need for action to centre recovery plans on addressing women’s and girls’ specific needs.
A year ago, on the symbolic date of the International Women’s Rights Day, Aide et Action and other international development agencies were already raising awareness on the threats posed by Covid-19 and its economic and social consequences on women’s rights. We called for a general awakening of consciousness to avoid an unprecedented setback in the history of girls’ and women’s rights.
Covid-19: an unprecedented setback for women’s rights
For the vast majority of women, especially the 740 million working in the informal economy, COVID-19 has meant the loss of jobs and income. More than 47 million women were suddenly forced to live on less than US$1.90 a day, bringing the number of women living in extreme poverty worldwide to 435 million.
In addition to the social restrictions that have deprived women of access to social protection and care, family planning, psychological or administrative support, there has been a dramatic increase in domestic violence. The youngest also are at risk as an increase of more than 13 million early marriages is expected between 2020 and 2030.
In terms of education, young girls have been among the first to be excluded: 767,000 were deprived of school at the worst moment of the crisis, and few of them, due to poor access to digital tools, have had access to any kind of distance learning, especially as barely 6 out of 10 countries have put in place educational alternatives for the most vulnerable populations. It is now estimated that between 11 and 20 million girls may never return to school as a result of increasing poverty.
Socio-economic responses of gender-blind states
In the face of such an alarming situation, voices have been raised to build a more just and sustainable world and to ensure that girls and women are included in the economic and social recoveries after crises. Unfortunately, “the majority of socio-economic responses adopted by States in the framework of the COVID-19 are gender-blind and rarely address the specific needs of women,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in July 2021.
More than 24 months after the start of the pandemic, it is clear that women are far from being at the heart of States’ strategies to rebuild the world. Men and women have not suffered the same violence from Covid-19, but many States of the United Nations have not taken this into account. The education sector proves this. According to UNESCO, states have allocated less than 3% of their recovery plans to education and few have set up programmes for the most vulnerable populations, especially for girls and women. How can we believe, under these conditions, that the situation of girls and women will improve? How can we hope to rebuild a fairer world when half of the human race remains excluded from education?
Guaranteeing women’s and girls’ rights
In the face of such threats to the future of girls and women and more broadly to our world, Aide et Action reminds States of their obligations and commitments towards women. We demand that all women, without any discrimination, have access to quality education (minimum 12 years of free education), which is a source of knowledge, access to employment, but also confidence, critical thinking and leadership, which are indispensable for any citizen of this world. And we insist on the absolute necessity to open up socio-professional training to women including entrepreneurship and micro-credit programmes, which will improve access to decent work and more participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions, as well as the increased capacity to realise their rights and to advance gender equality. This is the long-term key to a just and sustainable world.
Aide et Action is developing an international solidarity movement, “Education For Women Now“, in parallel with our advocacy work, aiming to support more than 3 million girls and women with improved access to education and opportunities to become more empowered by 2025.
 ONU 2021
 UNICEF 2020
 UNESCO 2020
 UNESCO 2020
 UNESCO 2020
 Malala Funds 2020