From adversity to opportunity
Aiman Niazi (Viewpoint): In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity, said Albert Einstein and we cannot agree more. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, on the one hand, Women’s contributions and leadership role as a central force to the coronavirus recovery efforts are greatly being acknowledged and on the other hand, several reports and recommendations to increase the progress on women rights and gender equality are being brought forward at international level.
Around 19 million people and countless families have been affected globally, yet it is fair to believe that catastrophes expose the otherwise inevident opportunities.
And in this situation, the glimmer of hope is the greater attention towards women given that women’s role in the current crisis is being considered essential to the Coronavirus efforts. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-general of the United Nations also acknowledged the need for women’s contribution and leadership as being central to COVID-19 recovery and resilience efforts. Through his report, he indicated the possibility of progress in women rights post COVID.
A reshaped leadership perspective:
Lately, the role of effective leadership to curb the effect of the virus has been taken into consideration. Even more so important is the appreciation of women as leaders and frontline workers of COVID response.
Throughout human history, women have consistently demonstrated their distinct abilities, but it is now that their role is being recognized more than ever. From managing the house to offering front line services, women are playing an outsized role in keeping their communities resilient and safe during the pandemic.
To praise such painstaking efforts of women around the world, UN women lately joined hands and thanked them through their online platforms. Few women leaders who were praised include Hadeel Dabaibeh and Amal Al Mahayrah, UN Women field assistants who are providing psychological support and other corona related services for the vulnerable women and Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Another appreciated woman Yan Shenglian, a Chinese farmer by profession is actively playing a role at the frontline where she checks body temperature and records vehicle information on a checkpoint in a rural village Xiaruoyao. In both her roles as a community volunteer and as a farmer she has contributed commendable services. Also, amongst the many praiseworthy women, Dr. Runa Jha, the Director and Chief pathologist of the first laboratory authorized to conduct COVID-19 testing in Nepal has been commended on her efforts as a frontline worker.
Further, NeMolchi was appreciated for her efforts in providing a platform to women who during the pandemic find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help. She operates a helpline that was previously for survivors of sexual violence and now supports the victims of domestic violence.
To top it all up, several high-profile narratives further validate the point that various female world leaders are outperforming male ones. Given that all the variables remained the same, it has been revealed that due to women’s unique characteristics and aplomb leadership style, women-led countries fared better than male-led counties during the crisis.
This is also clearly echoed in Hillary Clinton’s speech on a June panel, where she praised women for demonstrating the kind of empathetic, inclusive, and rational leadership that should be promoted across the world. Worth mentioning leaders include Jacinda Arden, 39-year-old Prime Minister who at such an early stage had gotten its shores rid of the virus in Newzealand. Another prominent female leader is Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel’s who has won high approval ratings due to her astute response to Covid-19. The aforementioned efforts of female leaders support the fact that women are coping with the pandemic better than male leaders.
Further, due to the challenges of the current century, a reformed leadership style contrary to the previous control and command one is being demanded. This new type of leadership role similar to the feminine management demands empathy, courage, flexibility, resilience, collaboration, caring, and recognition of collective participation.
The evident role of women at the grassroots level and their representation makes it evident that women can lead the next wave of political leaders. Undeniably, women are leading the movement against COVID-19 and it may take a global pandemic to eventually acknowledge the distinctive capabilities and talents women leaders possess.
Attention towards Gender-based inequality:
Previous slow-paced progress in addressing Gender parity may get fast-forwarded during the pandemic. Though there is a risk of widening of gender gaps and reversal of the long-accumulated gains in women’s economic empowerment, concerns demonstrated at various international forums on the matter of Women rights indicate otherwise- further development on the matter of gender- specific issues. Specialist forums, international press, and think-tanks have published several writings on the subject concerning gender-focused sensitivity.
The approaching threat is also being timely addressed by various projects of the World Bank Group. In the first weeks of April, the UN
Secretary-General issued a call for peace in the home as levels of violence against women and girls escalated alongside the pandemic. UN agencies are also currently working with the Member States to ensure that domestic violence prevention and response are part of national COVID plans. The UN is shifting resources to civil society organizations on the front line of COVID response; supporting women organizations to deliver public health messaging in communities, working with governments to inform gender-responsive stimulus packages, and ensuring that vital sexual and reproductive health services remain accessible to women. Also, the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 addresses and outlines the interventions by UN Women for economic recovery solutions to facilitate women in Pakistan.
Further, the fact that women-led countries are managing the pandemic effectively can be attributed to the entire societies where there is a greater presence of women in various positions of power, in all sectors. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranks women-led countries during pandemic high on the list. In such egalitarian countries, power is enhanced by its distribution amongst both genders. In other societies, COVID-19 is exposing how inequalities of all types have hollowed out the societies, institutions and systems, making them more vulnerable to health, climate, economic, and human security threats.
The pandemic can, therefore, have long-term opportunities for women empowerment and gender equality in its wake. The illumination of gender gaps and related issues has led the governments and organizations to realize that gender-balanced representation can lead to better policy outcomes whereas the lack of women’s contribution can undermine it. The changed attitude and interventions for women at various levels thus predict an epoch of progression in Women rights.
It is imperative that Governments and organizations acknowledge and minimize the consequences of post COVID economic slowdown for women. For this, women leaders must be brought together for dialogue and decision making during the response efforts for the COVID-19 outfit.
Moreover, organizations need to diversify their human capital as much as possible, giving priority to gender and hence deconstructing the stereotype of men being better suited for leadership roles.
With greater participation of women and a broader perspective on the crisis by a heterogeneous group, a better consensus on solutions could be reached.
Aiman Niazi is a business graduate from NUST. She has experience in various business fields. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the Dubai News TV.