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Opinion: Women have taken a staggering Covid hit. Now they offer the best hopes for the future

March 12, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 22.7%. 5 min read.

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 08: A woman looks at images depicting women's rights activists after a mural celebrating a diverse array of women was vandalized today with black paint during International Women's Day on March 08, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. The mural had presented an array of famous women from around the world, including Nina Simone, Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo and the Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

For Women's History Month, Marianne Schnall asked a diverse group of global women leaders to share their views on this year of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on women and girls. Contributors -- including Tarana Burke, Melinda Gates, Reshma Saujani and Ai-jen Poo -- share their views on where we're struggling and where there's hope.

At the onset of the pandemic, she created COVID Gendered, a digital newsletter and online platform that looks at how this crisis is affecting women, girls and other marginalized communities.

One year later, the world is still struggling with the myriad ways it has impacted our lives and created hardship for so many -- especially women and girls, Black, indigenous and people of color and other marginalized communities.

In addition to the medical, economic and social devastation that the pandemic has caused -- including the staggering loss of over 500,000 lives in the United States -- throughout the year we have seen many alarming trends in the pandemic's effects on women and girls, all of which are exacerbated for women of color: spikes in domestic violence; a departure of more than 5. 4 million women from the workforce due to layoffs or the challenge of caretaking with kids out of school; millions of girls being taken out of school worldwide; and 47 million more women being pushed into extreme poverty due to the economic fallout, according to estimates from the United Nations.

Despite the challenges and inequities of the past year, we did still celebrate important milestones for women, which are worth noting as we celebrate Women's History Month: the historic election of Kamala Harris as the first woman, first Black and first South Asian vice president; the transformative impact of Black women organizers and voters; the efficacy in the handling of the pandemic by women-led countries; and the women heroes on the front lines of this pandemic -- from healthcare and essential workers to caretakers and scientists at the forefront of vaccine development.

At a time when the world is realizing the vital perspectives and leadership of women, which includes the long overdue recognition of the powerful and essential influence and leadership of women of color, now is the time to be proactive to ensure their rights are protected, their needs are met, and that they are supported during these challenging times.

With this in mind, I reached out to a diverse selection of global women leaders, asking them to share their views on where we've made progress in fighting the effects of the pandemic on women and girls, as well as where we need to focus our efforts.

As Michelle Nunn, president of international humanitarian organization CARE, put it: "As we move forward, we must respond to the acute needs of women and girls, but we must also invest in them as leaders for our recovery and re-building. "

At the start of the pandemic, it became clear immediately that women were going to do what needed to be done, and that's show up for our elders, our families and each other.

This includes addressing economic abuse in the Violence Against Women Act; creating paid and protected leave for survivors; building capacity by supporting survivor-led initiatives to end sexual violence and investing in housing, health care, child care and programs that prioritize both cisgender and transgender women and girls.

In the US and around the world, women have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic's social and economic impacts.

As long as the pandemic goes on, it will continue to devastate women's lives.

The hard-won gains we've made against Covid-19 would not be possible without the heroic work of health care workers around the world, 70% of whom are women.

This is even more true with a gender lens, and for the experiences of women and girls in communities of color during the pandemic.

As a society, we have not made women and girls a priority, and that's become clear during this pandemic.

As we work to contain the virus and speed the recovery of the economy, it is imperative that we prioritize the needs of women and girls.

Indigenous women organized during the pandemic as we often have to protect our sisters, family, region and Mother Earth.

During the pandemic, indigenous women built healing and distribution centers, as well as registered voters changing the tide for leadership in America.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, women have been on the frontlines of the battle to defeat it, and as a result, have been more likely to be exposed to the virus.

Fatima Goss Graves is the president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, which fights for gender justice in courts, public policy and society, and cofounder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.

And without question, around the world, this pandemic has only exacerbated the social and economic inequities facing the most vulnerable and marginalized among us, most often women and girls.

CARE, the international humanitarian organization I lead, is continuing to provide the basics to stop the spread by building water stations, providing hygiene kits and empowering millions of women to share accurate public health information through our village savings program.

Critically, we are combating the secondary effects of the pandemic that hit women and girls hardest, like job loss and hunger.

Our goal is to help vaccinate 100 million people starting with 275,000 health care workers, 70% of whom are women.

As we move forward, we must respond to the acute needs of women and girls, but we must also invest in them as leaders for our recovery and re-building.

Unfortunately, we have not made significant progress at fighting the effects of the pandemic on women and girls.

To chart a path for women and a full recovery, we must first get the pandemic under control, reopen schools and then get women back to work.

The pandemic was a crisis within a crisis for women in the US.

Our care workforce -- disproportionately composed of Black and other women of color, including many immigrant women -- continues to support us through the pandemic without access to a safety net or decent wages, while their own families need them too.

During the pandemic we have seen incredible innovation and ingenuity in the way that women's funds and gender equity funders have addressed both the urgent needs of their local communities as well as investing in long-term policy solutions.

While we remain hopeful that the demonstrable impact the women's funding sector has had on the lives of women and their communities during the pandemic will trigger long overdue investment in solutions led by marginalized genders.

The only way to respond and rebound effectively from the Covid-19 crisis is to ensure women are heard and empowered to design and implement programs and policies that are mapping an inclusive economy built on racial and gender equity and justice.

Many women were hanging by a thread before the pandemic, in no small part due to decades of insufficient investment in our care infrastructure, and now that thread is unraveling altogether.

In fact, since the pandemic began, women -- particularly moms and women of color -- lost nearly 1 million more jobs than men.

These policies would help address the extreme emergency that many women, moms and families are facing -- especially Black, indigenous, people of color moms who are experiencing compounded health and economic harms -- and also help us build a future toward fair wages for everyone.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is the executive director/CEO and co-founder of MomsRising, a million-member organization that takes on the most critical issues facing women, mothers and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions.

Women are organizing and building power together to create a world that invests in and listens to migrant women, women of color and their families.

We need to robustly increase resources for international aid and health systems, and for the caregivers -- largely women and girls -- who sustain communities worldwide.

Be as committed as we are in supporting grantee partners such as The MS Black Women's Roundtable, value and fund organizations by and for women and girls of the color that are leading and are at work in every part of this country to create a more just society for all.

by summa-bot

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