The rate of violence against women has increased exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, while approximately 11 million girls are expected not to return to school in 2021 alone, millions more are expected to drop out in the years to come.

Women also remain unfairly underpaid, and the gender gap is only increasing as a result of the pandemic. All this means that the impact of the pandemic on women and girls globally has been disproportionate.

We spoke with UN Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to further understand the impact COVID-19 is having on women and girls, as well as the role of women and girls — and vaccines — in bringing the pandemic to an end.

Mlambo-Ngcuka served as Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2007. She moved on to establish the Umlambo Foundation, which supports underprivileged schools across South Africa.

Today Mlambo-Ngcuka is not only fighting gender inequality as the Executive Director of UN Women, but she's also the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Here, she tells us more about her own personal experience with COVID-19 and what it was like getting vaccinated; why women are so needed in the conversation about vaccine equity and ending COVID-19; and how she's been staying motivated.

Read the full article about vaccine equity and gender equity by Khanyi Mlaba at Global Citizen.