It is now well-known that women are not only bearing the brunt of the pandemic as they make up 70% of the health and social care workforce, but are also disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in both the short and long run.

In this context, UNESCO participated in the first-ever G20 ministerial conference on women’s empowerment, chaired by Elena Bonetti, Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family. Gender equality ministers from G20 countries and representatives from international organizations (UNESCO, UN Women, ILO, OECD), the business community, academia and civil society gathered in Santa Margherita Ligure on 26 August 2021. The historic meeting was the first of its kind, building on the numerous G20 gender equality actions over the past decade. It was both timely and critical as the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the destructive effects of gender stereotypes on our societies, perpetuating gender inequalities and disproportionately affecting women.

Topics addressed were “STEM, financial and digital literacy, environment, and sustainability” and “Labour and economic empowerment and work-life balance”; the organization of a specific ministerial meeting dedicated to the condition of women and girls in Afghanistan; and the destructive effects of gender stereotypes on our societies, particularly as they perpetuate gender inequalities and disproportionately affect women.

Pioneering the G20’s gender equality agenda with the establishment of the Gender Target in Brisbane in 2014 and the W20 in Antalya in 2015, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences Sector of UNESCO, led UNESCO’s delegation and supported Minister Bonetti’s call for immediate action.

Given the resurgence of conservative movements, the unequal impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, and recently the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, where women and girls are at risk of losing everything, she invited key stakeholders to join forces with UNESCO to improve living conditions and opportunities for Afghan women and girls. UNESCO will pursue efforts to monitor the situation of schools in the country, as part of its mandate to protect and promote human rights and access to quality education.

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