The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered once again the disparities and structural challenges women and girls face all around the world. As long as this crisis continues, these gaps will deepen, and are threatening to undo 25 years of advances towards gender equality, according to UNDP’s COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. 

A recent study by the UN System in Peru and the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP in Spanish), shows that women’s income has been reduced up to 37% since the beginning of the pandemic; more than twice than men’s. There’s also been an increase in unpaid care work: women were already dedicating 9 more hours a week than men, with the new normal the time they can dedicate to productive activities has been severely reduced. During the first months of mandatory quarantine, violence against women also increased. Preliminary studies by the Aurora program, from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP), show that there’s been an 88% increase in calls reporting violence. 

Our gender equality strategy proposes that the interventions deployed must generate structural changes, integrating gender across other focus areas of sustainable development, like climate action, the fight against poverty, and resilience during a crisis. From the first day the pandemic reached Peru, we’ve been doing just that: facing this systemic, chronic, gender inequality with integrated solutions to ensure the specific needs of women and girls were taken into account in this unprecedented emergency. 

To achieve this we’re carrying out two main strategies. On one side, thought leadership and innovation to promote differentiated policies and toolkits that can provide a quick response in the new normal. On the other side, we’ve activated our integrator role in the development ecosystem to find new synergies among other development stakeholders, to improve the reach and sustainability of the actions deployed in the territory. 

We worked alongside the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, academic leaders, and think tanks to develop different studies to show the differentiated impact of the pandemic on women. That way we published the first analysis on the impact of the pandemic on women’s work, with GRADE, which is now being used as an aid in the development of policies, and journalistic and academic research. 

In line with this cooperation opportunity, we launched “No estás sola” (You’re not alone) with MIMP. This strategy looks to reinforce the prevention, response, and elimination of violence system, especially during the sanitary emergency. Through agile methodologies, we were able to adapt the attention protocols and the communications toolkits to improve their effectiveness despite social distancing. 

No estás sola managed to gather over 60 allies in the private and public sector for an extensive communications campaign. With over 2000 commercial establishments at the national level as platforms, we were able to reach more than 24 million people with messages on gender equality and violence prevention. As a part of the communication efforts, we launched the violet mask initiative. This reusable mask was sold in supermarkets with the most people affluence of the Cencosud network, and 100% of the income generated was donated to the Lima Municipality’s women shelters. 

In Villa El Salvador, the fifth most populated district in the capital, we contributed to the development of the district protocol for joint action against gender-based violence, from the creation of the Instancias de Concertación Distrital, a multistakeholder workgroup that works with the local government for the elimination of violence. This protocol has been described by the Ombudsman Office as a historic milestone in the fight for gender equality. 

In parallel with these advances, we are working with the National Specialized Justice System for gender-based violence. This is a joint effort with the Judicial System, the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and the Public Ministry to improve the justice operators’ specialization levels and procure better articulation between the institutions that are a part of the system, to guarantee effective access to justice for women.

The challenges the pandemic has brought on girls and women are not new. But they have acquired new dimensions that make it even more difficult to guarantee their access to development opportunities. As said by Maria del Carmen Sacasa, Resident Representative for UNDP in Peru, this challenging panorama demands new responses from us. That’s why “we’re working with creativity, innovation, and commitment to boost integrated solutions in line with these new times, solutions that will protect women and girls so that everyone can recover in equity.”


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