Global activists fighting for gender equity have faced immense obstacles in the last two years. COVID lockdowns led to an increase in domestic violence incidents -- putting a strain on human services and resources -- and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan earlier this year has reversed 20 years of progress for women. In addition, investment in preventing gender-based violence has totalled less than 0.002% of official annual development assistance in the last five years.

But, there is a path forward.

“Humanity can stand up together and make priorities, like eliminating gender inequality,” said Marina Pisklakova-Parker, founder and chair of the board at the Center for the Prevention of Violence. “We as a global community will come together to create a new framework and eliminate gender-based violence.”

Pisklakova-Parker was part of the recent Plenary Conversation on Gender Equality and Democracy at the 2021 Goalmakers conference, hosted by Global Washington

Moderated by Jane Barry, executive director of the Linksbridge Foundation


How COVID-19 Has Affected Gender Equity Efforts

Increased Coordination Between NGOs During COVID-19 in Russia

While there is more progress toward gender equity in Russia now than ever before, Pisklakova-Parker said there are still no laws on the books specifically pertaining to domestic violence, which she said is prosecuted privately in most cases. 

In addition, the increased need for domestic violence support services has required more coordination between NGOs. These organizations are often first responders to gender-based violence, providing legal services, shelter, and other support to survivors.  Pisklakova-Parker said her organization received 74% more calls to its gender-based violence helpline in recent months. Despite this reality, NGOs continue to be underfunded and are often under threat as governments fail to stop radical groups from harming activists. 

“Non-action from governments is indirectly supporting violence,” Pisklakova-Parker said.

Pay Gaps and Poverty

By now, the pandemic has laid bare the vast inequities that exist across the globe -- and women and girls around the globe have been disproportionately affected. 

“The veil has been lifted on how unequal our world really is,” Maxman said. “As a society, we need to re-value underpaid care work more likely to be performed by women and girls.” In addition, a report released in July 2020 by Oxfam found that more people will die from hunger linked to COVID-19 than from the virus itself

“When access to food is limited, women are more likely to go without food,” Maxman said.

Reduced Human Services in Afghanistan

Despite progress toward “mainstreaming equality” in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, Ayoubi said the achievements were swiftly reversed by the pandemic and the Taliban’s takeover. Although Every Woman Treaty had formerly “provided services on behalf of the [Afghan] government when the government was not able,” services had to be drastically cut due to COVID-19 and Afghan people are currently suffering from widespread hunger, violence, and instability under the Taliban.

Ayoubi, whose organization provides services for more than 40% of the country, said NGOs are “more vocal” as governments fail to take action to protect women and girls. 

How Donors Can Help

While civil society and movements to protect women’s rights have made meaningful progress, there is still plenty of backlash against these efforts. According to Maxman, “the fear is in response to realizing how powerful these movements can be.”

But, donors interested in supporting gender equity can be part of progress. 

Fund research: Ayoubi emphasized the importance of increasing data and evidence collection on gender-based violence, noting that change comes from increased knowledge and collectively calling for action. 

Support movement building: “Transformational social change comes from movements led by the people most impacted and marginalized,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, during the conference’s closing keynote.

Give: Organizations such as Global Washington, Every Woman Treaty, Oxfam America, and the Global Fund for Women are working to advance gender equity and reduce gender-based violence.

Finally, consider Ayoubi’s question:

“What can be done in the future to advance gender equity, not only from the government’s side, but from civil society actors?”