EU, US and New Zealand leaders highlight pandemic′s impact on women | News | DW | 09.03.2021
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EU, US and New Zealand leaders highlight pandemic's impact on women

On International Women's Day, three major world leaders drew attention to how women have been impacted disproportionately by the coronavirus pandemic. They called for equality and protection from gender-based violence.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses European lawmakers via video link during a plenary session to mark International Women's Day at the European Parliament in Brussels.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that women were facing intensified domestic violence during the pandemic.

Three of the world's most influential female leaders on Monday warned of the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had had on women's rights.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, US Vice President Kamala Harris, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed the European Parliament on International Women's Day.

They warned that the economic and political fallout of the pandemic had sharpened the challenges facing women as they demand equal rights.

"COVID-19 has ravaged our health systems, our economies, our livelihoods," Ardern said. "But it has also exacerbated structural inequalities that disproportionately impact women and girls. Women are at the forefront of fighting the COVID crisis."

She added that women were "amongst the doctors, nurses, scientists, communicators, caregivers and frontline and essential workers who face the devastations and challenges of this virus every day."

'Shadow pandemic'

The New Zealand PM said that women, in addition to the other adverse impact of the pandemic, were also facing intensified domestic violence.

"This (domestic violence) is being reported as the shadow pandemic in all corners of the world," she said.

This was echoed by Vice President Harris in her statement where she said that quarantine measures had increased the risk of violence against women.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen listens to US Vice President Kamala Harris, displayed in a screen, during a plenary to mark International Women's Day at the European Parliament in Brussels.

International Women's Day: Kamala Harris, Ursula von der Leyen, and Jacinda Ardern addressed the European Parliament.

"COVID-19 has threatened the health, the economic security, and the physical security of women everywhere," she said in a video address recorded in Washington.

"At the same time, women comprise 70 percent of the global health workforce, putting them on the front lines and at risk of contracting the virus," Harris said. "Time in isolation has also increased the risk of gender-based violence while interfering with services for survivors of domestic violence."

Bridging the gender pay gap

Von der Leyen, the first woman to lead the EU's executive branch, touted her proposal to introduce a pay transparency directive aimed at pushing European companies to close the gender pay gap.

"It is built on two simple principles: equal work deserves equal pay and for equal pay you need transparency," she said. "And women must know whether their employers treat them fairly. And when this is not the case, they must have the power to fight back and get what they deserve."

Watch video 02:42

Pandemic overshadows International Women's Day

Von der Leyen said that women were paid 14 percent less than men and that only 67 percent of women were employed compared to 78 percent of men.

"This is simply not acceptable," the EU chief said. "We have to remove the obstacles on the path towards equality. We have to strive for equal opportunities."

adi/aw (AFP, dpa)

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