Women and conflict in West Africa and beyond

By Dr Diene Keita, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Women are deliberately targeted in conflict

When conflict happens, the rule of law breaks down, freedom of movement is restricted, institutions and services are weakened, creating a lack of access to social services and information, and to food and livelihoods. This situation affects the entire population, but it disproportionately affects women. Research has shown that female-headed households are more vulnerable to stress and less capable of absorbing shocks, due to gender inequality, cultural restrictions and the feminisation of poverty. Conflict affects women and men differently and existing gender inequalities are compounded in times of conflict. Women and girls make up a large proportion of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and refugees. In Burkina Faso, 51% of IDPs are girls under the age of 14. Moreover, gender norms that associate masculinity with aggression make men more likely to perpetrate violence against those over whom they have power – usually women and children.

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Think global, act local: unpacking progress towards ending child marriage and averting the setbacks of COVID-19

By Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser and Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Save the Children UK1

In 2021, over 28,000 girls got married on International Women’s Day. Ten years from now, the number might still be as high as 26,000 – a far cry from the net zero target of Agenda 2030 (Fig. 1). The grim estimate for 2030 doesn’t even take into account the impact of COVID-19 on child marriage rates, although evidence shows that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on girls’ rights. With only 10 years to go to 2030, we reflect on progress made on one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and call for urgent action on inequalities in particular, which COVID-19 is exacerbating. The Generation Equality forum convened by UN Women is a timely process to prioritise gender equality in recovery efforts, building momentum around economic and political investment in girls’ rights.

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Dewi’s story: discriminatory social institutions hold women back in Southeast Asia

By Pierre de Boisséson, Economist, OECD Development Centre and Alejandra Meneses, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

Human development relies on three fundamental building blocks — health, education and income. A recent report from the OECD Development Centre shows that in Southeast Asia, women’s human development remains severely constrained by discriminatory social institutions, in other words, formal and informal laws, practices and social norms. These socially and culturally embedded norms, attitudes and behaviour limit women’s ability to control and make decisions on their own health, education and access to labour opportunities. Dewi’s story is especially telling.

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Aux racines de la violence contre les femmes : comprendre ses causes profondes et comment y remédier

Par Hyeshin Park, Coordinatrice du programme Égalité femmes-hommes, et Gabrielle Woleske, Analyste de politiques publiques, Centre de développement de l’OCDE

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Chaque jour, 137 femmes sont tuées par leur partenaire ou un membre de leur famille. Une femme sur trois dans le monde a déjà subi des violences conjugales au cours de son existence. Alors que la violence à l’égard des femmes demeure un problème mondial persistant, nombreux sont ceux qui continuent de n’y voir qu’une simple affaire personnelle ou ne concernant que « certains hommes mauvais ». La nature généralisée de ce phénomène indique toutefois qu’il s’agit aussi d’un problème social collectif, prenant racine dans les normes sociales largement répandues et liées au concept de masculinité – c’est-à-dire les constructions sociales qui définissent la façon dont les hommes se comportent et, surtout, sont censés se comporter dans des contextes spécifiques pour être considérés comme de « vrais » hommes. Pour comprendre pourquoi certains hommes sont violents envers les femmes et y mettre un terme, il nous faut donc identifier et questionner les normes qui conduisent à ce type de comportements, et dépasser le discours qui voudrait restreindre ce problème à l’action individuelle de « certains hommes mauvais ».  

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Gender-based violence: the ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ with devastating human and economic consequences

By Flavia Bustreo, Global leader for health & rights of women, children, adolescents & elderly & Former Assistant Director-General at WHO, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO and Felicia Knaul, Director, Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School of Medicine

Last year, in early February, we joined global leaders and Ministers from a number of countries at a landmark conference organised by the OECD on ending violence against women. The first of its kind, it reflected the rising recognition among OECD countries that violence against women is both a grave violation of human rights as well as an economic sinkhole. The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the existing ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ of violence, with devastating consequences for individuals, and for our societies and economies at large.

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The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

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Women in industry – why we need more gender-sensitive statistics

By Jenny Larsen, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation

Since COVID-19 emerged in late 2019, scientists have been poring over the data to understand better how the virus behaves and how to fight it. But studies show that many trials fail to take the sex of participants into account – meaning eagerly awaited vaccines or treatments could be less effective in the female population. Data from Global Health 50/50 show that as of December 2020 only 58 percent of COVID-19 cases reported by 186 countries had been disaggregated by sex, making it much harder to assess the impact of the virus across populations. 

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COVID-19, an opportunity to build back better for women migrant workers

By Dr. Jean D’Cunha, Senior Global Advisor on International Migration, UN Women

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the systemic inequalities in our societal fabric and ethic that largely function off intersecting forms of discrimination, especially for women migrant workers. Women and girls constitute nearly half of the 272 million international migrants, and a large number of internal migrants. 8.5 million of the 11.8 million overseas migrant domestic workers and a majority of the 56 million local domestic workers worldwide are women. Women, comprise 70 percent of the global health workforce at the frontlines of response, many of whom are migrants.

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Three root causes of violence against women and how to tackle them

By Hyeshin Park, Gender Programme Co-ordinator and Gabrielle Woleske, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

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Every day, 137 women are killed by their partner or a family member. And one in three women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. While violence against women remains a persistent, global problem, many continue to view it only as an individualistic issue or the actions of “some bad men”. However the widespread nature of the problem indicates that violence against women is also a collective, social problem, rooted in the widely-held social norms surrounding masculinities – socially constructed notions about how men behave and importantly, are expected to behave in specific settings to be considered ‘real’ men. To understand why some men perpetrate violence against women and to end it, we must uncover and address the drivers that lead to such behaviour and move beyond the discourse that simply attributes it to the individual actions of “some bad men”.

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The gender dimension of COVID-19: a wake-up call for business

By Bathylle Missika, Head of Division – Networks, Partnerships and Gender, OECD Development Centre, and Mathias Vicherat Secretary General of Danone and co-chair of the OECD Development Centre’s EMnet Working Group on Sustainability


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


covid-19-gender-impactAlthough men seem to be hit harder by COVID-19 than women from a medical perspective, the economic and health impact on women is becoming increasingly severe as the disease spreads around the world, and may well prove particularly devastating in emerging and developing economies. When crafting responses and recovery plans, governments and businesses must pay special attention to how the pandemic and the resulting crisis affect women and girls and how to address their specific needs. This will be key to both containing the economic and social fallout of the crisis, but also to facilitating recovery.

Women are at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic as they make up almost 70% of the healthcare workforce, while being largely under-represented in leadership in the healthcare sector. Women also work in sectors largely impacted by the crisis such as the hospitality business or the garment industry, the latter employing 60 million workers around the world, nearly 75% of whom are women. For example, in Bangladesh, as brands and retailers declared force majeure and cancelled orders, about 1 million of the 4.1 million mostly women workers in the sector lost their jobs. Moreover, lockdowns worsen the risks of violence, exploitation, abuse or harassment against women. Finally, and most importantly from an economic perspective, women are disproportionately affected by the crisis due to their position on the margins of the economy. Indeed, nearly 60% of the world’s workers make their livelihoods in the informal economy, and in many of the world’s poorest countries, it is working women who are most likely to be found in informal employment. In Africa for example, 90% of employed women are in informal employment compared to 83% of men. Tens of millions of informal workers have already been affected by COVID-19. Many of these women will not be rescued by social safety nets, as access to benefits frequently depends on formal participation in the labour force. Continue reading “The gender dimension of COVID-19: a wake-up call for business”