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Women as architects of the post COVID-19 world

Tewa students, Kenya

As COVID-19 threatens gender equality, the economic inclusion and empowerment of women has never been more important.

COVID-19 has transformed lives across the globe. Its onset has highlighted and exacerbated already existent gender inequalities. Ensuring global economic recovery doesn’t worsen gender inequality should be at the top of the global agenda.

An article recently published by the Gates Foundation reveals that a four year delay in the promotion of gender equality, through programmes such as advancing digital and financial inclusion, could wipe a potential $5tn from global GDP by 2030.

COVID-19 and gender inequality

COVID-19 has already disproportionately affected women around the world. From PPE supplied to hospitals being designed for men, despite 70% of the global healthcare workforce being female, to women’s jobs being 1.8 times as likely to be cut as men’s – COVID-19 highlights gender inequality. This is on top of an increase in women’s unpaid work, with care duties for children and family members dictating that some exit the workforce all together.

Gender inequalities are also prevalent in internet access and digital literacy – essential components of our ‘new’ COVID-19 world. Women are 10% less likely to own a mobile phone, with 313 million fewer women than men able to use mobile internet. Ensuring digital equality has never been more important to achieve gender equality.

How we are adapting – women and economic recovery

At WONDER, through our COVID-19 relief fund, we have been supporting our partners with internet access for online learning and vocational training. Wavecrest College of Hospitality, our partner in Lagos, Nigeria, has exemplified this, using WhatsApp to continue online learning, working to ensure all its students have access to data.

Technological and vocational training is a key way our partners work to empower women, ensuring they have the right skills to enter the workforce. Throughout the pandemic, our partners have been adapting how they approach vocational and technological training – ensuring the women they work with are prepared for work in a post COVID-19 world. As industries such as hospitality and tourism are increasingly unstable, they are focusing on developing entrepreneurship and business skills.

Our partner Tewa, based in Kilifi, Kenya, for example, is combining its vocational training for hospitality with business skills and an increased mentoring programme. This helps to ensure the women they support are resilient to market change. By supporting women develop greater business skills and versatility, Tewa is adapting to ensure the women they work with can access employment in a post COVID-19 world.

Ensuring the economic inclusion and empowerment of women has never been more important. As the pandemic threatens progress made towards gender equality, it is vital that we support women access employment and digital technology.

To echo the words of Melinda Gates, women can, and must be, architects of a better world.

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