Like nothing in recent memory, the pandemic has exposed the countless challenges facing women in the city—particularly low-income women, who use public transit, commute on foot and traverse unsafe streets, rendering them more vulnerable than most men and higher-income women to both physical and sexual violence and to infection with COVID-19.
There has been a resounding failure by the international community to meet the urgent needs exacerbated by the cascading crises and to address the longstanding structural inequities that have only become more entrenched.
Last year on International Women’s Day, our world was shutting down. This Women’s Day, we have the rare opportunity to make that world a far better place for women and girls. We need to seize this opportunity.
Every year on October 11 we celebrate girls for being their wonderful selves, with the right to thrive and to realize their utmost potential. Girls are our future.
Yet this year, from war zones to refugee settings to the countryside to poor urban neighborhoods, girls all over the globe are at risk.
COVID-19 is compromising significant recent progress made towards global girls’ education equity, as schools close and migration increases. The painful and protracted interruptions to girls’ education are a global emergency, with incalculable potential losses to follow.
Although reproductive rights are under attack around the world, there remain some bright spots for women’s reproductive rights and contraceptive access.
In the Philippines, since 2012, when reproductive rights and education were finally enshrined in law in this fiercely Catholic country, the government has committed to providing free family planning services to those living in poverty.
In setting priorities and developing action plans, we need to listen to the women who know best what their communities need and how those needs change over time.
With schools, clinics and whole communities shuttered, our programs improving women’s and adolescent health, increasing access to girls’ education and empowerment, and preventing violence against women and girls, too, have largely been forced to pause. What does this mean, when working with populations even more fragile than our own?