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The Impact of COVID-19 on Women

Originally published on LinkedIn by Lisa Manely Vice President, Sustainability, Mars

Living and working during a pandemic is frustrating and at times frightening for both men and women. But this crisis is not gender neutral. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted both at work and at home.

In global supply chains, women often work in precarious conditions or informal jobs with little or no social protection. According to the global humanitarian organization CARE, 740 million women work in the informal sector, which has suffered major economic fallout as supply chains are disrupted by the pandemic. This is particularly troublesome because women are less likely to benefit from recovery and stabilization efforts, as gender is often a roadblock to economic opportunity. Women’s access to income is less secure and many women lack access to financial institutions and financing. Experts say that prioritizing women in the pandemic’s economic recovery and investing in gender equity could stimulate the economy as a whole and reverse losses to global wealth by $160 trillion.

In its policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women, the UN emphasized its priorities for a more equitable recovery, including ensuring women’s equal representation in all COVID-19 response planning and decision-making. Evidence shows that policies that don’t consult women or include them in decision-making are less effective—and can even do harm. Even so, according to research from BSR’s Business Action for Women, companies aren’t recognizing gender equity in their COVID-19 responses. A study of US-based companies revealed that only 22 percent of respondents believe their companies are applying a gender lens to their COVID-19 response.

The private sector must place women and girls at the center of their efforts to manage COVID-19 risks today and shape business resilience for the future. That’s why CARE and Mars are working together to ensure emergency response and recovery efforts around the world are providing women and children access to critical supplies, networks and information. As a global leader in ending poverty, with women and girls at the core of its work, CARE’s gender expertise, reach and networks of civil society partners helps ensure that both emergency response and longer-term recovery efforts reach the most vulnerable. Through an initial $5 million contribution, Mars and CARE are putting women at the center of response efforts in West Africa and Southeast Asia, including:

  • In Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire: In cocoa-growing communities, we’re working to increase access to safe hygiene through community hand-washing stations and access to essential COVID-19 related supplies. We are working to meet the basic needs of those most vulnerable and to develop resilience against the secondary impacts of the pandemic. This builds on five years of our collaboration focused on increasing access to finance and related training for women in cocoa growing communities.
  • In India: We’re supporting recovery and response efforts for mint farmers, including reducing food insecurity, addressing cash flow needs and empowering women to be agents of recovery. In addition, we’re providing 25,000 farmers with health kits containing face masks, gloves, soap, and a hand towel.
  • In Thailand: We’re funding outreach and emergency provisions in communities that are active in seafood processing and fishing, as well as efforts to bolster livelihoods and build resilience. We’re developing gender-sensitive social media messages and communications materials on COVID-19 prevention measures and supporting 500 women leaders via digital platforms and small group consultations.

We must not lose sight of the inequalities that are being exacerbated by today’s pandemic and the role that business must play in creating a more equitable recovery. Building back better — fairer and more inclusive — means unlocking opportunities for women around the world. Let’s work together to ensure that economic response and recovery efforts are designed with a gender lens.

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