Women and girls have been at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts, yet have suffered disproportionately from many of the pandemic’s impacts. From being more likely to shoulder the burden of child care as a result of school closures, to a rise in teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence, women have faced several challenges due to their gender.
In her keynote speech at a side event of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), convened by the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN), Amujae Coach and former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, spoke about how the challenges women have faced during the pandemic have impacted the advancement of women’s leadership. Dr. Banda said:
“It is common knowledge that COVID-19 has been a tragedy to humanity in general, and women in particular. From a gender perspective, the pandemic remains a matter of grave concern as it is on the verge of reversing significant socio-economic gains that have been achieved in the recent past.”
Dr. Banda also spoke of the need for a new approach when shaping Africa’s recovery, recognizing that while recorded deaths from COVID-19 may be lower across African countries than elsewhere, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been much higher. She called for women to raise their voices against ineffective leadership and exploitation—factors which hinder the recovery process—and expressed her confidence that Africa has all of the resources it needs to succeed in the future, if women are given the tools to speak out and take the lead.
Fellow Amujae Coach and African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security, Bineta Diop, who is the Founder and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité, an international NGO dedicated to promoting peace, security, and development in Africa, also spoke on the panel. Ms. Diop commended women leaders on their determination, resilience, and solidarity with one another throughout the pandemic, and acknowledged the work that African women leaders in particular have done to improve security and peace in their countries in recent years.
Looking to the future, Ms. Diop said that the time was now to make pledges on women’s financial independence a reality, and to address violence against women and girls to give them hope for the future:
“We need to make sure that while we build back better, our women have to be at the center—in particular, young women. We need to join hand in hand with elders and this generation to make sure that we transform Africa for the best of our populations. Together we will build an inclusive Africa with no one left behind.”