It’s 2020 (shudder). Who has time for feminism? (Hint: We all should.)

By Amanda Austin, Equal Measures 2030’s Head of Policy & Advocacy

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2020 is a year of upheaval. The [sense] of unease, uncertainty, and loss is pervasive. It is felt in all aspects of my life: as a working parent, a woman, an immigrant, and a social justice advocate. This is likewise true for my un(der)employed musician partner, for everyone I speak to among my family, my friends, and my colleagues living around the world.

With each day bringing headlines to make us shudder, we’re struggling to get from today to tomorrow without losing it. Trying to raise our heads above the waves can feel exhausting. This has to be true too for the policymakers making decisions everyday to try to rebuild.

Let me offer some help, here, Mx. /Mr./Ms./Mrs. Policymaker: feminism.

Want to design an effective cross-sector response to a public health crisis? Feminism.

Want to help your economy get back on its feet? Feminism.

Want to protect the rights of all of your citizens? Intersectional Feminism.

Want to build back better both at home and internationally? You guessed it. Feminism

The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — the most progressive blueprint ever for achieving gender equality and women’s rights — is 15 September 2020. A huge amount of progress has been achieved, but if 2020 has done anything, it’s reminded us of just how much further we need to go. Here are four pressing critical challenges demanding action:

Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality research earlier this year from Equal Measures 2030 found that 67 countries — home to 2.1 billion girls and women — wouldn’t achieve any of the five key gender equality targets studied by 2030 if their pace of change continued. This was pre-Covid. UN Secretary-General António Guterres later notedCOVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights”.

Trends research drawing on data from the United States and India estimated women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s. These data do not capture the significant shrinkage of the informal economy, where an estimated 740 million women work worldwide and where loss of work has been acute and immediate under lockdown conditions. This is compounded by the fact that women carry a greater burden of unpaid care responsibilities in every country around the world. According to one survey, COVID-19 has increased the time women spent on family responsibilities by an estimated 30% in India alone.

Within one week of France’s lockdown, reports of domestic violence increased by 30%; anecdotal evidence suggests the same trend in many countries. Marie Stopes International, a provider of contraception and safe abortion services, estimated that the pandemic could prevent 9.5 million girls and women from accessing their sexual and reproductive rights and services this year with potential significant impact on lives, health, and wellbeing for decades.

COVID-19 has made existing inequalities worse just as other health and humanitarian crises have done before it. Policymakers should seize the momentum of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, the Generation Equality campaign, and multi-stakeholder Action Coalitions to channel investment that enable our communities and societies to rebuild. A feminist lens and feminist leadership can guide us out of this crisis. Female leaders are already showing the way. Let’s follow their example to support greater equity for women and girls from 2020 onward.

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