The event was moderated by Kate Donald, Director of Program at the Center for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Ms. Donald was joined by a high-level panel of women leaders for a dynamic and interactive dialogue. The conversation showcased and celebrated the leadership of women in the COVID-19 recovery, and provided a dynamic platform for intergenerational dialogue between the panelists.
Young women activists, Minal Bidar and Nyasha Phanisa Sithole, alongside the moderator, Ms. Donald, posed compelling questions to the diverse panel of leaders.
When considering the imbalanced impact COVID-19 has had on the health and well-being of women and girls, Suki Beavers, Director, Gender Equality, Human Rights and Community Engagement at UNAIDS said: “Recovering from COVID-19 cannot be about going back to the pre-pandemic normal. It must be about revolutionizing and disrupting gender unequal systems that harm everybody and diminish the prospects for recovery and resilience. It must be feminist leadership that will drive economic, social, gender and climate justice for all.”
In a video message Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized “concrete action, not just empty words, is paramount for our very survival.”
Alongside this call for inclusive action for COVID-19 recovery and climate justice, the speakers applauded the recently launched UN Women report “Beyond COVID-19: A Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice”, which is a global roadmap with concrete solutions to address the major gendered crises of our time that have been brought to the fore by COVID-19
Speaking about the report, UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous said: “The pandemic has acted as a big revealer because the virus has exploited and worsened inequalities, including gender inequalities that were there all the time, but we saw them magnified during COVID. Fueled by the pandemic, jobs and livelihood crises has wiped out fragile progress on women’s empowerment.”
“Climate change is a man-made problem that requires a feminist solution”, said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chief of The Elders. “Man-made is generic, and a feminist solution is many strands of feminism that incorporates the problem-solving approach, non-hierarchical listening, serving those whom you have a responsibility for and really caring about their needs. It’s a solution that men must embrace more and more, and this is really important.”
Across the grave issues we face as a society – from COVID-19 to climate change – the panelists emphasized the need to bring historically excluded voices into the discussion on climate change, including those of the youth, indigenous, women and disabled peoples. “What we need to do in this feminist plan is plan for more space for those voices and places,” said Ms. Robinson.
Emphasizing the power of choices, Ms. Bahous said: “At this pivotal moment, we need a new global social contract and unprecedented levels of global solidarity to pull us through.”
“Today, let us remember that women and girls are not only victims, but also agents of change”, said Ms. Bachelet. “Across the world, women and girls, human rights defenders, in all their diversity, are courageously leading efforts to protect our environment.”