Urgent need for innovative strategies to seize women's economic slide due to COVID-19 — UN WomenTuesday, October 19, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The United Nations (UN) Women says it is focused on working with its development partners to prevent women and their families from falling into poverty.
This, it said, is as a result of the glaring gap in financing for women-owned enterprises —with only 22 per cent of impact investing in Latin America and the Caribbean— burgeoning responsibilities of care for children and the elderly because of COVID-19 school closures and movement restriction, forcing women out of the formal economy.
The statement was made following an inaugural mission to the Caribbean by UN Women Regional Director for the Americas and Caribbean Maria Noel Vaeza who was accompanied by the Representative – UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean, Tonni Brodber.
They met with governments and development partners in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Caribbean mission was focused on sharing on UN Women's new four year strategic plan, particularly strategies towards building forward from COVID-19 in a gender-responsive way.
Regional research has shown since COVID-19, women are forced to balance, and in some cases choose between, caring for their children and pursuing livelihoods to feed them.
The regional director highlighted that whereas women's participation in the labour force pre-COVID-19 impact had reached 53 per cent for the Americas and the Caribbean, this figure had now been rolled back to 42 per cent of the participation rate 10 years ago.
According to the UN, pre-pandemic, unpaid care work constituted almost half of total global work time and women spent about three times as many hours on unpaid domestic work and care work as men.
A 2020 World Food Programme and Caricom: Caribbean Community survey revealed that 54 per cent of women and 47 per cent of men experienced an increase in unpaid domestic work, while 46 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men increased their childcare duties.
There was consensus on the need for greater social protection measures designed to reduce people falling into poverty including long term housing for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), which would be a means of immediate support but would also arrest the longer-term loss of income. The UN Women team highlighted that supporting public private partnerships for the care economy especially for care of children and the elderly is an investment in a nation's growth.
Innovative financing for women-owned businesses was also on the table as UN Women highlighted that after women small business owners and entrepreneurs successfully access and apply micro credit and small business loans, they are not granted access to the next level of financing to upscale their businesses and offer more jobs.
“The financial lending sector is still very masculine and does not understand the advantages of lending to women who are more efficient at repayments. When women are on executive boards, the evidence is there of better profit performance,” Vaeza said.
She highlighted the Investors for Equality initiative launched in Latin America which bring together investors and other players in the financial ecosystem as a better practice for introducing Innovative Financing for Gender Equality mechanisms in the Caribbean.
This builds on the implementation of the Win-Win: “Gender Equality Means Good Business” programme in Jamaica which was created in a partnership with UN Women, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Union (EU) to promote gender equality through the private sector.
The joint project approach which harnesses the technical expertise of UN Women and all of the UN agencies in joint programming to “deliver as one” was hailed as one of the key benefits of UN reform. Discussions focused on building on the joint programming groundwork laid through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, and the Government of Canada, UKFCDO-funded EnGenDER joint project which is UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean-led with co-implementation by UN Women Caribbean, World Food Programme and CDEMA - Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
UN Women also launched a global black women's programme in this UN Decade for People of African Descent and the MCO Caribbean and UNESCO Caribbean offices in response, have partnered to strengthen women- and youth-led enterprises in the cultural and creative industries in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.
To this end, the schedule also included a meeting with Kingston Creative in Jamaica, a non-profit organisation with a vision to develop “a vibrant, inclusive Art District and a Creative Hub for training and development” that will contribute to sustainable national development through the creative economy.
Opportunities for not only economic growth, but also two-way communications between UN Women and communities through the creative and cultural industries continues to be an important avenue of work for the organisation.
The Jamaica visit included meeting with Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Aubyn Hill; Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange; and Principal Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Sharon Coburn-Robinson.
During her remarks, Grange recognised the partnership between UN Women and the Government of Jamaica.
“I commend UN Women for the long-standing commitment to supporting the regional Gender Mainstreaming programme and for working closely with Gender Machineries in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, towards achieving the SDGs. Much more has been done regarding the Stand Alone Gender-Transformative Goal 5 which recommends the empowerment of all women and girls to achieve gender equality. As Jamaica's first Minister of Gender Affairs, I can assure you of my unrivalled commitment to challenge toxic and harmful gender norms and stereotypes as well as all forms of gender inequalities, sexual and other forms of exploitation and discrimination,” she said.
In response, the regional director recognised Jamaica's leadership in advancing the gender equality agenda and the empowerment of women in peace and security.
She also congratulated the Jamaican government for passing the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021 on her final day.
The Act contains provisions for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, correctional institutions, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric facilities, among other places.