On Tuesday 23 March 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), together with GAPS hosted a virtual event titled ‘Call to Action: Now and the Future, COVID-19 and Gender Equality, Global Peace and Security’. This event builds on the GAPS paper, ‘Call to Action: Now and the Future, COVID-19 and Gender Equality, Global Peace and Security’ which addresses the deeply gendered impacts of COVID-19 and calls for a rights-based approach, gender-conflict analysis to be at the centre of global response and recovery.
In the 20th anniversary year of UNSCR 1325, now more than ever the international community- including governments, donors, multilateral institutions and INGOs- must act on their commitments to taking a gendered approach to conflict and crises. The Women, Peace and Security agenda provides an essential framework for analysing and responding to COVID-19. For this event, we were joined by Juliet Were, Deputy Executive Director of the Women’s International Peace Centre (WIPC) in Uganda, Randa Siniora, General Director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) in Palestine, and Hannah Bond, Director of GAPS in the UK. The event was chaired by Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Co-Chair of the APPG-WPS.
We first heard from Hannah Bond who touched on the findings in the GAPS paper on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, such as the increase in Violence Against Women and Girls, the drastic decrease in service provisions, women making up to 70% of health care yet are not in leadership positions making decision on COVID-19 response, and much more. Hannah stressed the need to collect gender disaggregated data so that programmes can respond to the specific needs of women and girls. Similarly, Randa Siniora shared the experiences of Palestinian women and how gender inequality has exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. Randa’s organisation, WCLAC has seen how Palestinian women have been relegated to domestic and traditional work and have continued to be unpaid care givers for members of their family on top of their existing roles and responsibilities. The women who are heads of households were also quick to lose their jobs as many were doing ad hoc or informal work. In addition to the financial impact of COVID-19 and the patriarchal burdens, Randa also spoke about the how the Israeli occupation adds to the multi-layered oppression that Palestinian women are facing, and how the agenda of Women, Peace and Security and the voices of women should be heard more than ever.
Juliet Were, from WIPC, discussed the human rights violations that have occurred by security groups as country ‘emergency legislation’ has been in place which enforced a lockdown in Uganda. Additionally, Juliet spoke about how the lockdown had disrupted the services her organisation provides due to the restriction of movement. The restriction of movement had also meant that those who live in refugee camps were unable to receive service provisions and further were unable to receive any information on the COVID-19 situation within country. WIPC have witnessed other major negative impacts of COVID-19, such as the rise of pregnancies of girls under lockdown which will inevitably lead to a high rate of girls who drop out of school. Juliet pointed out how this is posing a challenge to the Women, Peace and Security agenda as they have made it a priority to work with young women to be able to organise specific training for them to understand issues regarding Women, Peace and Security, and for them to be a part of the discussions to allow them to participate at platforms and spaces.
The event wrapped up with questions from the audience on what recommendations can the UK Government and the international community take up going forward in responding to the COVID-19 response. All panellists touched on three main areas, the need for setting for a budget on National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security, the need to push for implementation on the international and national commitments of UNSCR1325 and finally to ensure accountability for resources that are given to governments.