Photo courtesy United Nations in Ukraine

International Women’s Day 2021 theme – “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” 

UN Women has announced the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021 (IWD 2021) as, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” 

The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic, and the quarantine restrictions established to contain it, placed an unequal burden on women and men. During the pandemic lockdown, with schools and kindergartens closed, women had the additional burden of juggling childcare, housework, and working remotely. With more women occupying essential jobs in supermarkets and pharmacies during the strictest phase of the quarantine, they were also exposed to greater risk of infection. 

Women also stood on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, and community organizers. 

Moreover, it has been noted that some of the countries that dealt with the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia, all have women as government leaders. 

The crisis thus highlighted both the centrality of women’s contributions, and the disproportionate burdens that women carry. 

As the world starts to recover from the pandemic, attention should thus be paid to shaping a more equal future for women, improving women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to women’s needs. 

In Ukraine, progress has been made in involving more women in decision making. Women's participation in parliament in Ukraine has increased over the past 20 years, rising to 21 percent (1 in 5 seats) in 2019, compared to 8 percent in 1998. However, if this improvement continues at its current pace, Ukraine will not reach gender parity in parliament by 2030. 

Women in Ukraine still face an unfair gender pay gap, receiving on average 20 percent less than men for doing equivalent work. Women in Ukraine perform most unpaid domestic and care work – more than two times as much as men – which significantly affects their choices in education and careers.  

And as in the rest of the world, Ukraine saw a rise in reports of domestic violence during the pandemic, with the majority of those affected being women. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, GBV was very pervasive - 2 in 3 women experienced psychological, physical, or sexual violence in Ukraine.

The United Nations Development Programme believes that to uphold women’s rights and fully leverage the potential of women’s leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, the perspectives of women and girls in all of their diversity must be integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in all spheres, and at all stages of pandemic response and recovery. 

Additional information related to the United Nations Observance of IWD 2021 will be made available on UN Women’s website closer to the date. The hashtags for social media will be #IWD2021 and #InternationalWomensDay. 

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