Women and Gender Equality

new mother attended by nurse

Mothers already shouldered tremendous financial, physical, emotional, and intellectual burdens before the onset of the pandemic. But now ‒ under increasing economic pressures, reduced access to health care, diminishing social support and growing unpaid care responsibilities ‒ many of these burdens have become crushing. All of this is taking a toll on the long-term health and welfare of mothers. Women have been disproportionately affected by pandemic-related job losses, and researchers are starting to see signs of rising stillbirths, maternal mortality and poor maternal health outcomes around the world. 

A woman sits at her desk in front of a computer as two kids read together on a couch nearby.

The new reality, due to the pandemic, has left many mothers scrambling. With schools and day-cares closed, many were forced to leave their jobs or cut the hours they worked. New IMF estimates confirm the outsized impact on working mothers, and on the economy. Within the world of work, women with young children have been among the biggest casualties of the economic lockdowns. Three countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain—illustrate the varied impact of the pandemic on workers.

Iman Hadi poses for a picture next to rows of solar panels.

A Yemeni woman improves lives and changes minds

A woman with eyes closed looks down and leans her head on her hands in prayer position.

In war-torn Yemen, women are often the first victims

partial view of woman with hands crossed over lap

The 2021 State of World Population report, titled My Body is My Own, marks the first time a United Nations report focuses on the power and agency of individuals to make choices about their bodies without fear, violence or coercion. The report examines data on women’s decision-making power and on laws supportive of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Tragically, only 55 per cent of women have bodily autonomy, according to measurements of their ablity to make their own decisions on issues relating to health care, contraception and whether to have sex. The report also highlights the legal, economic and social barriers to securing bodily autonomy for all. Here are seven common myths about bodily autonomy and why we must abandon these misconceptions once and for all

From top left, clockwise: Mariam Lomtadze, Kathy Gitau, Somaya Faruqi, Julieta Martinez

Girls around the world are using innovation and technology to solve problems, to unite communities and as a force for good and equality. And yet, women and girls are still under-represented in STEM fields. In an increasingly digitized world economy, the gender digital divide has severe repercussion for girls’ and women’s rights. To bridge this gap, at least three things need to happen: facilitate equal access to digital technologies and the internet for girls and women; encourage and invest in girls and women to build their ICT skills; and enable women and girls to take up leadership roles in tech. From creating open-source ventilators in Afghanistan to unifying and amplifying the voices of young activists in Chile, and working to end child marriage in Georgia, here are some girls and young women changemakers who inspire us.

Around the world, only 55% of girls and women are able to make their own decisions about their bodily autonomy. But, what exactly is bodily autonomy and why is it so important? Watch this video to find out and learn more at unfpa.org/autonomy

A woman holding birth control pills.

Bodily autonomy means that we have the power and agency to make choices over our bodies and futures, without violence or coercion. This edition of the State of World Population, UNFPA highlights why bodily autonomy is a universal right that must be upheld. The report reveals how serious many of the shortfalls in bodily autonomy are; many have worsened under the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, for instance, record numbers of women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices such as early marriage.

The profile of a girl outlined by an illustration of circuits.

While girls across the world tend to outperform boys in reading and writing skills, they continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Through International Girls in ICT Day (22 Apr), ITU works with partners to build awareness about the gender digital divide, support technology education and skills training, and encourage more girls and young women to actively pursue careers in STEM. Visit the ICT Day Events Map and join the global celebration. Visuals, Ideas and Toolkit are available to share your activities. #GirlsinICT

Catarina Furtado poses with a woman.

Millions of women and girls are denied their right to have a say in sexual matters, to say yes to contraception and to make their own healthcare choices. This world must become one where every woman and girls’ body is truly her own. Catarina Furtado, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, speaks out to achieve this world  — from educating young people about their bodies and rights, to reforming policies that do not adequately prevent or address gender-based violence, to supporting communities to adopt more gender-equitable practices.

Act For Equal! Join Generation Equality and show people everywhere that, together, we’re standing up for gender equality.

Khowlá Mohamed mediates a dispute with elders

Everyone is impressed by Khowla Mohamed Abdow. She’s competent, helpful and hardworking. At 25 years old, she’s the coordinator of Baidoa’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre in South West Somalia, a Ministry of Justice facility supported by UNDP, where local people can come for help solving arguments ranging from land theft to domestic abuse.

drawing of diverse women

The 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, will take place from 15 to 26 March.

woman beekeeper with honeycomb

UNESCO and Guerlain have launched a state-of-the-art female beekeeping entrepreneurship programme, “Women for Bees,” with activist Angelina Jolie, helping promote its twin objectives of women’s empowerment and biodiversity conservation.