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FLASHBACK: Participants walk around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, during the International Women’s Day march in 2019.

United Nation’s Resident Coordinator Marina Walter says the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the strength, determination and contributions of women in Trinidad and Tobago but it has also brought to light their many vulnerabilities.

She made the comment in a statement yesterday, ahead of today’s International Women’s Day celebrations. Walter said the pandemic saw many women emerge as unsung, unseen leaders.

“With courage, grit and determination, healthcare workers treated COVID-19 patients and cared for the sick and elderly. With creativity and patience, our teachers innovated their lesson plans to meet the challenges of delivering education in a digital space. With steadfast commitment, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts have supported our children as they learn at home,” she said.

Walter said the turmoil of the past year had underscored the strengths of women. But she said it has also highlighted their disproportionate vulnerability.

“With lockdowns came job losses in the informal sector, which employs more women than men. Women also shoulder most of the unpaid care work at home, a workload that intensified because academic learning shifted entirely into the domestic space,” she said.

She also noted the increase in the number of reports of women facing gender-based violence during mandatory stay-at-home periods.

“These inequalities existed long before the pandemic but they have deepened over the last year, threatening to undo the progress toward gender equality­—one of the Sustainable Development Goals which UN member states, including T&T, have committed to achieving by 2030.”

The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum.” IWD celebrates the economic, social, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The day is also used as a call to action for advancing gender equality and highlighting the issues they face in day-to-day life as well as in the world of work.

Walter said one of the best ways to achieve gender equality is to allow women to participate in decision-making.

“Now, more than ever, there is a collective awareness that the voices, skills and perspectives of women must get a seat at the table. Barriers that preclude women from participating in decision-making must be removed. One facet of this inclusive recovery must be the collaboration between all sectors of society to end gender-based violence,” Walter said.

She said the Spotlight Initiative, a global partnership between the European Union and the UN to end violence against women and girls, rolled into T&T in March 2020.

“The Spotlight Initiative is making a comprehensive investment in T&T, working with Government, civil society, law enforcement, the judiciary and health services to end violence and support victims and survivors.”

Walter said there is no denying that women have made ground-breaking progress in their search for equality but there is still work to be done to achieve it.