Expected by some to be the ‘great leveller’, the COVID-19 crisis has ultimately laid bare the world’s persistent inequalities. Particularly obvious have been the ways in which different genders have experienced the pandemic. Instances of domestic violence rose across the globe. Women reported difficulties in accessing essential reproductive health services. They provided childcare when schools closed – often alongside careers and the unpaid labour for which they are already largely responsible. As nations look ahead to post-crisis recovery and transformation, they have a duty to ensure that no one is lost in the transition. Building back better will require gender inclusion both in representation and as active players in the recovery. This Strategic Conversation with Nahla Valji, Senior Gender Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, and Margo Thomas, Founder and CEO of the Women’s Economic Imperative, will look at the specific challenges faced by women during the crisis, and suggest what must be done to ensure an inclusive, gender-focussed recovery.
This new Strategic Conversations series invites key policymakers to share their views on a range of important and strategically relevant issues through interviews with senior thinkers on the Friends of Europe team.
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- In what ways were women’s particular needs and circumstances largely forgotten when the COVID-19 crisis began, and how should this be avoided when the next pandemic – or the next wave of this pandemic – arrives?
- What should governments do differently to ensure a gender-focussed, post-pandemic transformation which creates a more inclusive world than the one which came before?
- What kind of leadership does the world need to be able to achieve these goals?
Senior Gender Advisor in the UN Executive Office of the Secretary-General
Founder and CEO of Women’s Economic Imperative, United States of America
Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe
Over the course of her career as a senior official at the world’s premier development organisation, the World Bank Group, Margo Thomas provided policy advice to over 50 national and sub-national governments. She was Chief of Secretariat for the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment and served as co-chair of both the 2018 Think 20 Task Force on Gender Economic Equity and the 2019 Think 20 Task Force on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In her current role, Thomas mobilises initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for the economic empowerment of disadvantaged and under-represented groups globally.
Nahla Valji has worked on issues relating to transitional justice, rule of law and gender equality for nearly 20 years. She served as both Acting Chief and Deputy Chief of the Peace and Security section at UN Women and headed the Secretariat for the Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 for the Security Council’s 15-year review of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Prior to her work with the UN, Valji founded and managed the International Journal of Transitional Justice and led the regional transitional justice work of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa.
Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.
- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
- By Nona Zicherman
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