Women noticeably absent from COVID-19 recovery processes – Bahamas’ Social Services Minister says

Women must be included in response and recovery decision-making (Photo via UN Women)

While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on women’s lives, and they have been on the frontlines of the response as nurses and health care workers, they are noticeably absent in recovery committees and processes.
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of The Bahamas, Hon. Frankie Campbell made this observation in his address to the opening of the Fortieth Meeting of the Council for Social and Human Development (COHSOD-Gender) on Thursday 3 June.

“We should ensure that we include women in response and recovery decision-making, whether at the local, municipal or national level. This inclusive approach with women integral to planning and devising solutions, coupled with measures such as gender-responsive budgeting, will lead to better outcomes for all of society,” Minister Frankie stated.

He told his colleague Ministers, who gathered for the virtual meeting under the theme ‘Strengthening Gender Equality in COVID-19 Response and Recovery in the Community’, to use international rights conventions to address the multi-dimensional and differential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of The Bahamas, Hon. Frankie Campbell

These include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Achieving Gender Equality.

“Failure to be so guided,” he said, “will only serve to exacerbate pre-existing inequalities, such as violence against women and girls, sexual harassment, the undue burden of care work, unemployment and under employment, lack of childcare and poor health outcomes, especially among the most vulnerable.”

Minister Frankie noted that reports have confirmed a sharp increase in incidence rates of physical and sexual violence of women, largely because they have had to shelter in place with their abusers during pandemic. Highlighting the impact of the pandemic on children, girls, the elderly, homeless, and persons with disabilities, he explained:

“Children face the rapid increase of online child abuse and bullying, and girls encounter increased sexual abuse and harassment. Older persons are not only struggling with greater health risks, but also elder abuse. Homeless persons, because they may be unable to safely shelter in place, are more exposed to the danger of the virus. Persons with disabilities could be left without vital support due to social distancing and those in prisons, in migrant detention centres or in mental health institutions face the higher risk of contracting the virus because of confined spaces.”

Minister Frankie called for “social protection floors” which he described as “powerful tools for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Against that backdrop, he said it is crucial to recognise that investment in and the provision of equitable, inclusive, quality, accessible and affordable early childhood education, and childcare services are important enablers for women to enter and remain in the labour market.

By supporting transformational policy responses to reduce poverty in rural areas, governments can assist in building rural women’s ability to cope with future shocks, he added. One such example is to address women’s unequal access to land, productive resources and supporting their engagement in higher-value agricultural activities such as cash crop production, Minister Frankie stated.

As he opened the discussion, he urged COHSOD to chart “a course to rebound from the current crisis and to ensure that we build back better, with gender equality central.”

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