While 2020 was supposed to be the start of a decade of milestones for gender equality, it has turned to one where COVID-19 threatens decades of progress. Unfortunately, the secondary crisis we sounded the alarm on a year ago has become the reality for millions of women. The GFF responded quickly to help countries limit the damage, but more needs to be done to reclaim the gains.
The pandemic has already disrupted contraceptive use for more than 5 million women and adolescents living in GFF partner countries. This is in addition to the 75 million women and adolescents who were lacking access to modern methods of contraception before the pandemic hit. Many countries, CSOs and multilaterals have stepped up efforts to protect essential services but more needs to be done to turn the tide.
First, we need to show as a community that access to essential health services for women, children and adolescents is not only the right thing to do but the best thing to do to unlock economic opportunities for countries and communities. The upcoming Generation Equality Forum will be a key platform to get the much needed political support and ensure that momentum translates into policy and budget.
Second, ultimately, success will be measured in countries by communities and it will be key that priority actions are owned and grounded at the country and community level. Country-led platforms can help bring together donor governments, philanthropic organizations, CSOs and partners to prioritize underfunded areas but high impact such as SRHR and integrate them into a universal health coverage package.
Third, we need to bring the money where it’s needed to the frontlines and address equity gaps so that the women and girls who are often pushed aside can be lifted up. Our catalytic approach using grant financing in tandem with the World Bank can help to crowd in external financing, private resources and domestic resources and direct funding towards the one furthest behind.
If we don’t increase investment now, lives will be lost, and progress undone – hindering countries’ abilities to build human capital and recover from this health and economic crisis. We also have an unprecedented opportunity to build a recovery that puts women at the center of building more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies which can better withstand future shocks
The GFF’s support is comprehensive and goes beyond the health sector to remove some of the most pressing obstacles to the health and well-being of women and girls. For example, the GFF provides funding for the education sector in Bangladesh to improve learning and retention of girls in school as a key strategy for driving further improvements in adolescent and maternal health outcomes.
At the GFF we were honored to be named by Global Health 50/50 among the highest performing organizations active in global health to advance gender equality. As part of our new strategy and through our Gender Roadmap, we are doubling down on these efforts, particularly our emphasis on SRHR, gender voice and equity. COVID-19 shows that no country, agency or partner can do it alone – this will take all of us to work together in concert. The GFF is primed and ready to work with partners, governments and advocates to deliver on our collective promise and change the trajectory for millions of women, children and adolescents.