U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that efforts to empower women are losing ground amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, despite women playing key roles in fighting the global health crisis.
While noting that 70 percent of health and care workers are women, Guterres said in a video message for an event on International Women's Day, "Even as women have played critical roles during the pandemic, we have seen a roll-back in hard-won advances in women's rights."
"Too often, services are delivered by women, but decisions are made by men," the U.N. chief said, citing data that only 22 countries have female heads of government while less than 25 percent of the national lawmakers among U.N. member states are women.
"Gender equality is essentially a question of power...This is still a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture," he said.
Guterres indicated that the coronavirus pandemic has "forced a reckoning with global inequalities, fragilities and entrenched gender discrimination" and stressed the need for laws and policies including numerical targets to support women in leadership.
"Women have an equal right to speak with authority on the decisions that affect their lives...This is how we will rebuild from a pandemic that has made gender inequality worse, that has pushed more women into poverty, out of jobs and away from access to educational and medical services, including for sexual and reproductive health," he added.