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Young women shouting while protesting for equal rights against sky

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This post was originally written and published on November 22 by Sima Bahous, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women.

Thursday (November 25) marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Here at the UN and across the world, we are celebrating those who are working to protect women and girls and defend their human rights.

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Women in Georgia are producing protective garments and masks for medical workers.

Photo: Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia

This piece was initially published by UN Women

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and UN Women are joining forces to ensure that gender equality is a priority within socio-economic fiscal policies and financing instruments.

The COVID-19 crisis is having a disproportionate impact on women and is widening gender inequalities. The pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty.

In order to build back better from this crisis, joined up work is needed to accelerate a gender inclusive recovery, including by aligning all funding to close gender equality gaps.

The two organizations will cooperate and boost efforts in making gender equality and women's empowerment a priority in the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, expecting to benefit millions of women who have been deeply hurt by the pandemic, especially those in insecure employment.

Both UN Women and the EBRD have committed to working in the areas of economic recovery, gender-focused investments, digitalization and climate resilience. Each organization brings unique strengths to the partnership; for example, UN Women's work on safe cities and the EBRD's work on green cities, which – linked together – will enable robust planning for green, safe and gender inclusive urban environments. The two partners will test new approaches in Europe and Central Asia and the Arab States to jointly leverage knowledge, programming and financing instruments that directly advance gender equality.

To kick off the partnership and spotlight the importance of gender-inclusive recovery, the EBRD and UN Women held a high-level virtual roundtable on 17 February bringing together leaders from governments and the policy arena, the private sector, development partners and practitioners.

Commenting on the urgency of the partnership, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: "With the COVID-19 pandemic expected to push another 47 million women and girls into extreme poverty, we must act now to rebuild a world that is green, equitable, gender-responsive and inclusive. That means ensuring that women are fully integrated into global responses, have equal access to markets, and benefit from new technologies and financing."

How women in science are making a difference during the pandemic

How women in science are making a difference during the

By now, every corner of the world has felt the devastating impact of the pandemic, and women and girls in science are on the front lines of response.

Around the world, women are more likely to work in sectors hard hit by lockdown policies such as hospitality and food services, retail, tourism and health care. Women are also over-represented in informal, temporary, part-time jobs with reduced legal and social protection. Women entrepreneurs have also been at higher risk and they are overrepresented in sectors impacted by lockdown measures; their businesses tend to be smaller and carry smaller cash reserves and access to finance and support networks is traditionally more limited for women entrepreneurs.

EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso said: "Together with UN Women we aim to develop innovative approaches promoting gender equality in an inclusive recovery while ensuring that women and girls are at the heart of response plans. Women's high level of participation in the sectors most affected by COVID-19 means that crisis recovery policies need to pay special attention to getting women back into employment while actively breaking down structural barriers to women's full participation in the economy."

The EBRD and UN Women will seek to address these challenges together through data, policies and programming targeting women-owned enterprises and building partnerships with the private sector, including via the large network of companies that have adopted the Women's Empowerment Principles. They will also jointly tackle the digital divide and climate threat, ensuring that women are well represented in future jobs in technology, innovation and green economy.

With this new partnership, there will be new gains for women and girls, but also for economies by addressing gender-specific issues within financing models and instruments and by incorporating gender-responsive approaches into the recovery strategies.

Women in science

Photo: Curtesy of UN Women

Originally published on UN Women on February 9.

It will soon be a year since WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. By now, every corner of the world has felt the devastating impact of the pandemic, and women and girls in science are on the front lines of response. They are healthcare workers and innovators. They are researching vaccines and pioneering treatments. They are leading us toward a safer world, and inspiring the next generation of girls to be forces of good in science and tech.

This 11 February, we're celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science by highlighting just some of the women and girls around the world who have made tremendous contributions during the ongoing crisis.

Doctors and nurses

Entela KolovaniPhoto: Curtsey of Entela Kolovani

Women make up 70% of health and social care workers. This puts them at the heart of COVID-19 response, even though they are often underrepresented in decision-making and leadership.

"Treating patients with COVID-19 is very hard, each one with their own unique needs," says Dr. Entela Kolovani a physician at the hospital of infectious diseases in Tirana, Albania who started treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 at the very beginning of the pandemic. "We are dealing not only with the virus, but also with the psychological impact it has on patients. They are totally isolated from their families and we need to stay the closest possible to them."

In Mexico, 79% of nurses are women, like Brenda Abad. She was assigned to detect those with COVID-19 on her first day working at a public hospital.

"At the beginning I was very scared of catching the disease and being contagious, but in the end, you have to do your job and you're trained for it," she says.

Özlem Türeci

Özlem TüreciPhoto: Curtsey of Özlem Türeci

Co-founder of the biotechnology company BioNTech, Özlem Türeci is not just a scientist but also a physician, an entrepreneur and a leader in the global health sector. In 2020, her company developed the first approved RNA-based vaccine against COVID-19, which came as a much-needed moment of hope in a year of unprecedented crisis.

More than 1,300 people from over 60 countries currently work at BioNTech, and more than half of them are women. Türeci says researchers should focus on the things they want to change and the problems the want to solve, thinking broader and dreaming big.

Katalin Karikó

There are many discoveries that made the COVID-19 vaccine possible, and one of the most essential researches was that of Katalin Karikó, focused on the therapeutic possibilities of mRNA. Yet, her idea that mRNA could be used to fight disease was deemed too radical, too financially risky to fund at the time. She applied for grant after grant, but kept getting rejections. She was even demoted from her position. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Eventually, Karikó and her former colleague Drew Weissman developed a method of utilizing synthetic mRNA to fight disease. That discovery is now the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Anika Chebrolu

As the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies took up the race for the COVID-19 vaccine, there was one discovery by a young woman scientist that had the potential to provide a therapy to novel coranavirus. Anika, a 14-year-old Indian American, had started her science project in her bedroom when she was in eighth grade, initially looking to find a treatment for the influenza virus. That meant studying and researching the pandemics that affected the world throughout history, until she started actually living through one.

As the COVID-19 outbreak spread around the world, Amika changed gears with the help of her mentor to target the virus that causes COVID-19. She identified a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and potentially inhibit the novel corona virus. In October 2020, Anika won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed

While COVID-19 containment measures led to long periods of isolation and stay-at-home orders, many found themselves trapped in unsafe relationships or violent environments. Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed recognized the need for new technology to best reach those in need, and to enable the service provider organizations to actually connect with domestic violence survivors and manage cases virtually.

The Parasol Cooperative, founded by Shah and Fairuz, is working to educate and connect survivors and those in need, and the service providers. Their innovative technology, inspired by their own experiences and informed by their work with survivors, aims to offer the comfort and education of support groups to the most vulnerable populations being affected by domestic violence.

Ramida "Jennie" Juengpaisal

Ramida "Jennie" JuengpaisalPhoto: Ramida "Jennie" Juengpaisal

In Thailand, Ramida Juengpaisal, 24, worked to create a national COVID-19 tracker that pulls together all available information about the virus and helps to stop the spread of misinformation as COVID-19 first began to spread. The "COVID Tracker by 5Lab", that Jennie worked on shared information about outbreaks and cleaning procedures, as well as critical information about where testing is available and how much it costs.

"For too long, the STEM fields have been shaped by gender biases that exclude women and girls," Jennie says. "There is a lot of women working in the tech industry, but they don't have platforms to show their potential. Despite this, women and girls are pushing the boundaries every day."

Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett

Kizzmekia "Kizzy" CorbettPhoto: Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is one of the leading scientists behind the US Government's vaccine research. Corbett is part of a team within the National Institutes of health that worked to develop one of the vaccines which is more than 90 per cent effective.

Recognizing Dr. Corbett's contributions and leadership in vaccine research during the pandemic is especially important both because COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted black communities within the US, and because often black women in science have been left out of history books.

Dr. Corbett hopes that her critical work will help inspire future generations of girls of colour in science, who can see themselves in her success.

Do you know more women and girls in science making a difference during the COVID-19 crisis? Give them a shoutout on social media using #WomenInScience

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Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

Editor's note: This originally written by Constanza Tabbush, Researchon and published on UN Women, as a part of their Expert's Take series.

With over 90 million confirmed cases and 1.9 million deaths globally, and a second wave sweeping into 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the world hostage. Less visible and talked about is how its social and economic fallout is hitting women hard – and often harder than men.

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File:Kamala Harris (48571344276).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

While 2020 will be remembered most for the way COVID-19 changed our lives in nearly every way and in every part of the world, we made some strides for women's rights and gender equality. From new laws addressing domestic violence and equality to women's critical leadership during the global pandemic, join us to celebrate some key moments for gender equality this year.

Women leaders shine in the face of COVID-19

Governments across the world worked to respond to COVID-19, with research suggesting that in countries where women lead, the responses were quicker, more effective and stronger. In countries with women leaders, including New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Bangladesh and more, the quick and decisive actions of the women in charge led to lower cases and lower deaths.

Even though COVID-19 has demonstrated the important role of women in leadership and decision-making, as of December 2020, there are only 22 countries with women serving as Heads of State and/or Government worldwide. As we look ahead to building back better in the future, women's leadership is critical to success.

U.S. elects first woman vice-president

In November, Kamala Harris became the first woman vice-president-elect of the United States, shattering barriers that have kept men entrenched at the highest levels of American politics for many years. Following her swearing-in in January 2021, she will join the ranks of other female vice-presidents around the world, in countries including Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Liberia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, The Gambia, South Sudan, and others.

US President-elect Joe Biden also announced an all women senior communications team, a first for the White House.

Scotland makes period products free for all

The Scottish parliament voted unanimously in favour of the Period Products bill in November, making Scotland the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products –including tampons and pads – in public buildings including schools and universities.

It marks a significant victory for the global movement against period poverty which impacts women and girls in many ways. With 12.8 per cent of women and girls worldwide living in poverty, the cost of menstrual products and added taxes leave many without ways to safely manage their periods.

Mother's names to be included on children's IDs in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the President signed a new law stating that for the first time, mothers will be named on their children's birth certificates and identification cards, making it easier for women to get education, healthcare and other documents for their children. The change will especially benefit women who are widowed, divorced or otherwise raising children on their own.

The new law comes after a year-long social media campaign #WhereIsMyName, advocating for women's rights and empowerment in the country.

World leaders reignite the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action

In October, co-hosted by the President of the General Assembly and UN Women, leaders came together to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action, the most comprehensive roadmap for advancing gender equality. Over 100 countries committed to concrete actions that would accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls everywhere.

Some of the commitments include eliminating discriminatory laws, social norms and gender stereotypes; matching commitments to gender equality with adequate financing; strengthening institutions to promote gender equality; harnessing the potential of technology and innovation to improve women's and girls' lives; and regularly collecting, analyzing and using gender statistics.

Looking ahead, all eyes are on the robust actions and commitments to fast-track implementation on gender equality, at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico and France in 2021, and through the Generation Equality Action Coalitions.

Equal pay for women footballers in Brazil and Sierra Leone

Brazil and Sierra Leone have joined Australia, England, Norway and New Zealand in publicly committing to equal pay for women and men footballers. Globally, the gender pay gap stands at 16 per cent, meaning women workers earn an average of 84 per cent of what men earn. For women of colour, immigrant women, and women with children, the difference is even greater.

In Sierra Leone, the commitment to equality covers appearance fees and winning bonuses for the national women's team. Similarly in Brazil, female national players will be paid the same as male national players in preparation periods and games.

Kuwait's domestic violence law signals hope for women

In September, Kuwait issued a new law on protection from domestic violence, following years of activism from Kuwaiti women's rights groups. The law creates a national committee to write policies to combat domestic violence and protect women. It also establishes shelters and a hotline to receive domestic violence complaints, provides counseling and legal assistance for survivors, and allows for emergency protection orders to prevent abusers from contacting their victims.

Although the new family protection law is a step forward for the country with high levels of domestic abuse, much work remains in implementing the law, filling protection gaps and repealing discriminatory laws.

Worldwide, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the ever-present pandemic of violence against women surged dramatically. Calls to helplines increased up to five-fold in some countries during the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. Projections show that for every three months of lockdown, an additional 15 million women could experience violence. Laws and policies matter right now, to curb violence against women and recover from the social and economic fallouts of COVID-19.

TIME's first Kid of the Year celebrates girl power and women in science

Fifteen-year-old scientist and inventor, Gitanjali Rao, was selected as TIME magazine's first-ever 'Kid of the Year'. From an early age, Rao thought about how to use science and technology to create social change, as motivated by her desire to introduce positivity and community to the world around her. She developed Kindly, an app and a Chrome extension based on artificial intelligence that is able to detect cyberbullying at an early stage. Rao is currently working on an inexpensive and accurate means of detecting bio-contaminants in water.

New Zealand appoints first indigenous woman Foreign Minister

Nanaia Mahuta became the first indigenous woman appointed as Foreign Minister of New Zealand in November. Mahuta, who is Maori, and was first elected to parliament in 1996, previously made history as the first woman member of parliament to wear a moko kauae, or traditional tattoo, on her chin.

New Zealand also has one of the most diverse parliaments in the world, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with almost half of lawmakers being women, and around 10 per cent of incoming parliamentarians being members of the LGBTQ community.

Two women take home Nobel Prize in Chemistry

In October, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on a way of editing DNA, known as Crispr-Cas9. The two scientists led efforts to turn molecules made by microbes into a tool for customizing genes. Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna's joint win marks the first time in history that the prize has gone to two women, and they are only the sixth and seventh women to win Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

World Peace text printed on wall

Originally written by Sarah Douglas and originally published by the UN Women on July 12, 2016.

Every conflict is unique. But, from Afghanistan to Liberia to Syria to Guatemala, women's organizations and their leaders are always at the forefront of peacebuilding and recovery. Usually unsupported and under-resourced, women peacebuilders risk their lives and make tremendous sacrifices in order to rebuild their communities and to forge a better future for their societies.

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