Government responses to COVID-19: Lessons on gender equality for a world in turmoil

The overlapping impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating climate disasters, and geopolitical conflict are a threat to gender equality and women’s rights across the globe. This report from UN Women and UNDP shows what governments can do now to prevent further rollbacks and recover lost ground, while enhancing resilience and preparedness for future shocks.

Drawing on a unique global dataset of close to 5,000 measures adopted by 226 countries and territories in response to COVID-19, the report finds that, overall, government responses paid insufficient attention to gender dynamics. At the same time, instances of innovation and learning hold important lessons for gender-responsive policymaking in times of crisis.

For the first time, the report provides analysis on the factors that led to a strong gender response, generating key lessons for governments:

  • In a context of growing threats to democratic and open societies, strong institutions proved critical for an inclusive gender response.
  • Feminist movements and women’s rights organizations provided an early warning system on the gender impacts of the pandemic, particularly on violence against women and girls.
  • Women’s representation and leadership in executive positions, parliaments, and public administration was critical for translating feminist advocacy into policy action.
  • Countries with robust public services and gender-responsive social protection systems were in a better position to respond, while others had to improvise, under pressure, and with varying degrees of success.
  • Digital tools sustained feminist activism online and enabled policy innovations and rapid support roll-out, reaching groups of women often left behind in “normal times”.
  • Real-time gender data on the impact of the pandemic on women and girls was critical to making the case for gender-sensitive response measures, as was tracking what worked in government responses.

Regional fact sheets: Global and regional insights

Access the key issues and facts on regional governments’ gender response to the pandemic and lessons for the future:  

  • Central and Southern Asia (forthcoming)
  • Eastern and South-Eastern Asia and Oceania (forthcoming)
  • Europe and Northern America, Australia and New Zealand (forthcoming)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (forthcoming)
  • Northern Africa and Western Asia (forthcoming)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (forthcoming)

COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker

The COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker monitors responses taken by governments worldwide to tackle the pandemic, and highlights those that have integrated a gender lens. It captures two types of government responses: women’s participation in COVID-19 task forces and national policy measures taken by governments. It analyses which of the policy measures address women’s economic and social security, including unpaid care work, the labour market, and violence against women. The tracker can provide guidance for policymakers and evidence for advocates to ensure a gender-sensitive COVID-19 policy response. Access the trackerLearn about the methodology.

Bibliographic information

Subject area(s): COVID-19; Economic empowerment; Employment; Ending violence against women and girls; Health; Leadership and political participation; Political empowerment; Women's movements
Publication year: 2022
Number of pages:  172
ISBN/ISSN:  9789210019194