This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 global health pandemic in 2020. For the 2021 campaign, the UN Women announced the theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World”. A social media campaign was launched to inspire women to #ChooseToChallenge and call out gender prejudice and disparity. The theme profiles women’s incredible work in creating an equal future for everyone, recovery from the pandemic, and the existing gaps. At TrustAfrica we were excited to host a series of meetings throughout the month with partners under our initiative to redress gender-based violence and challenge the norms and stereotypes which strip women of agency and also spent time planning how we prioritize gender responsive programming through the collaborative Community Immunity Initiative.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that women in leadership drive development in communities. In fact, some of the most effective and positive responses to dealing with the pandemic were led by women and women were at the frontline of the COVID-19 response: in the health sector working as caregivers during the pandemic, as female scientists researching vaccines, and as daily wage earners eking out a living for their households during difficult shutdowns across Africa. Despite the enormous contribution of women in the fight against COVID-19, women at the frontlines are still paid 11% less than their male counterparts, according to data released by the United Nations. We must #ChooseToChallenge and end the gender disparity in pay. That’s why at TrustAfrica 40% of funds dedicated to community-led responses from the TrustAfrica Solidarity Fund went to support solidarity networks of women that were being responsive to the situation in countries across West Africa.
During the Inaugural World Communities Forum, in which TrustAfrica hosted a session, Chelsea Clinton hosted four amazing women exploring The Power of She and role women need to claim and be given in designing for communities’ development in light of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women. To build a better post COVID-19 future, we cannot simply return to the world as it were. We must lend our voices to the injustice against women, crushing the barricades that hold women back. This year’s IWD is a strong wake-up call for gender equity. It is time to harness women’s leadership power to achieve a more equal, all-encompassing, and sustainable future.
The increase in activism for women’s rights and gender equity, has raised the awareness of the call for a genuine commitment to action. The #ChooseToChallenge is an important cue for people who can speak up to choose to, as too many women are not in a position to do so. At TrustAfrica we #ChooseToChallenge the stereotypes and societal norms placed on women and create opportunities for women to participate constructively in their own development.
Throughout the pandemic we have also witnessed how women-led countries have fared better in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic, with examples like the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, and female heads of states in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Iceland, and Slovakia who have all been widely praised for their proactive and efficient response to the pandemic. The IWD theme and its accompanying social media campaign #ChooseToChallenge are timely and essential as countries put recovery plans in place to recover from the pandemic’s devastating effect. It is time to take immediate actions to end the marginalization and segregation of women.