Women and Gender Equality

A woman working with a test tube.

The outbreak of the pandemic has demonstrated the critical role of women researchers in different stages of the fight against COVID-19. At the same time, the pandemic also had a significant negative impact on women scientists, which need to be addressed by new policies, initiatives and mechanisms to support women and girls in science. Against this backdrop, this year’s celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science will address the theme “Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19”. On 11 February, join us online to celebrate the Day’s 6th year.

A collage of images that include one of two manicured female hands with a ring in each.

February is a busy month for retailers marketing the promise of “happily ever after” to girls around the world. But for tens of millions of girls, this is just a fairy tale. Their girlhoods are ending,not with storybook romance but with harmful rites of passage such as child marriage and female genital mutilation – practices believed to be increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic forces girls out of school and drags their families into poverty. UNFPA calls on leaders, community members and parents to take decisive action against female genital mutilation and early marriage.

A father surrounded by his nine daughters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively and disproportionately affected girls and women, resulting in a shadow pandemic that has hampered prevention efforts on harmful practices, including female genital mutilation. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme has adapted interventions that ensure the integration of female genital mutilation in humanitarian and post-crisis response. In the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6 February), we reimagine a world that enables girls and women to have voice, choice, and control over their own lives.

If you believe that women deserve equal rights, then you are already part of Generation Equality. The Generation Equality Forum is a civil society–centered, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France.

rural women dancing

Learn more about the different factors that relate to gender inequalities embedded in land rights by exploring FAO's database.

competition poster

"Generation Equality: Picture it!" is a global competition to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration. The submission deadline is 21 March 2021.

A woman lies with her new-born as a man wearing a facemask stands besides them.

UNFPA’s biggest stories of 2020 all stemmed from one story: COVID-19. Here are the highlights of how the pandemic affected women and girls, but also how people worldwide met the challenge.

Imen with her camels

Imen, like so many Tunisian youth, she struggled to find a paying job. In 2019 she submitted a proposal for a camel-rearing business to the the Support Fund for Project Holders and it was accepted. Camel raising is traditionally an exclusively male occupation. In fact, on the day her proposal was accepted, Imen became the first woman camel farmer not just in Tunisia, but all of North Africa. So how did a young woman with no relevant experience succeed? Put simply, she was determined and tenacious. 

women with donkeys

Some 2 million people and 20 million livestock inhabit the semi-arid plains of East Darfur. A rising population and more frequent climatic variability, combined with ineffective governance and policies have put a severe strain on natural resources, such as water and land. These challenges have been exacerbated by a major armed conflict in Darfur that began in 2003. In a number of communities across East Darfur, things are slowly starting to change, with women playing a greater role in various decision-making processes.

Portrait of a woman

Journalist and author Isha Sesay  from Sierra Leone has joined UNFPA as its newest Goodwill Ambassador to help raise awareness of gender-based violence and support efforts in ending it.

For the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (25 Nov – 10 Dec),

Collage of photos of events with people wearing orange or places lit in orange.

Best of the 16 Days of Activism

woman looking out from behind drapes

UNFPA collaborated with documentary photographer and visual artist Etinosa Yvonne on a multimedia storytelling project "Unheard Voices From Nigeria" for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The Abuja-based Etinosa interviewed, photographed, and filmed 16 women in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in northeastern Nigeria, a region afflicted by insurgent groups that have forced millions to flee their homes. For too long, the stories of these women—child marriage, domestic abuse, abduction and rape—have gone untold. Breaking the silence starts now. Each day through 10 December, one woman's story will be released.

Three girls wearing orange walk among a crowd of people wearing orange.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) marks the launch of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, to conclude on the International Human Rights Day (10 December). This year, under the title “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”, the campaign focuses on amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensuring essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, and strengthening prevention and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls.

Illustration of women shouting in a speaker while wearing their protective mask.

Violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. As cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. In the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), we all must commit to prioritize addressing this issue in our response to the crisis. UN Women provides up-to-date information and support to vital programmes to fight the Shadow Pandemic.