The pandemic needs to be looked at through a gender lens.

Fiona Wakelin

Dr Ranjani Kumari, Director at Centre for Social Research was a keynote speaker at the Standard Bank Top Women Conference and spoke about how crucial it is for women to be in leadership positions:

“It is important to look after ourselves, our families and our communities during this pandemic. Women are suffering not only because of the double, triple burdens they bear, but because they have lost their jobs and are facing increased violence.

“The pandemic needs to be looked at through a gender lens. We have seen women’s resilience coming to the fore during COVID-19 – but how can we bring women to the table and accelerate women in leadership roles?  We can only win the battle of of gender inequality by getting women into leadership positions. More and more women are demanding equal power, more women are entering the workplace and are becoming more visible in politics.

“But this is the year – 2020 – that the UN was meant to fulfil its goal of 50/50 gender balance goal following the 4th Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. And yet 25 years later under representation by women in parliaments across the world is still the norm. Seventy-five percent of parliamentarians are men, 70% are climate negotiators and in the arena of peace negotiations, the number of women is negligible. Where are the women? In the development sector women are present at entry level but they soon fall off because of the barriers to entry at management level.  In India, despite being the largest democracy in the world, women are missing from the workforce and face harassment in the workplace.

“Patriarchal attitudes and mindsets are a major hurdle across the board – and women have to work doubly hard to prove themselves.

“We need to accelerate women’s leadership or we will loose the gains we have made. How do we do this? Women need to hold hands and support each other’s networks and play real politics. We have to push for legal provisions of a gender balance of 50/50.

“When women lead, women lead differently. We will change the nature of power and ensure that women, men and the planet get justice.”

Dr Ranjana Kumari is the Director at the Centre for Social Research; Chairperson of Women Power Connect and named 100 most influential people in gender policy for 2019 in Apolitical’s second annual list, Delhi, India.

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