COVID-19, gender inequality and social exclusion                            SDDirect evidence on longer term issues                           




















COVID-19, gender inequality and social exclusion: longer-term issues, implications and lessons to be learnt


SDDirect evidence to the IDC inquiry on COVID-19 in developing countries



Produced for: International Development Committee

8th May 2020















1              Introduction to SDDirect

2              Executive summary

3              People with disabilities

4              Violence against women and girls (VAWG)

5              LGBTIQ+ people

6     Impacts on women’s economic empowerment

7     Impacts on civil society


1       Introduction to SDDirect

Social Development Direct (SDDirect) is a leading provider of social development assistance and research services. We are a technical firm that offers in-depth thematic expertise in conflict prevention and peace building, governance voice and accountability, girls’ education, women’s economic empowerment, health rights and violence against women and girls. We have a 20-year track record of providing high quality services that include technical advice and support, research, development assistance programme design, delivery and management, monitoring and evaluation. Our clients are leading international development agencies, iNGOs and Foundations.

We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Plan International UK, a leader in gender-based programming for children.

2       Executive summary

COVID-19 has been called the great leveller, a virus that does not discriminate. The evidence SDDirect presented in its previous submission as well as below, strongly refutes this argument. COVID-19 is already reinforcing existing inequalities amongst rich and poor, women and men, girls and boys, people with disabilities and those without, and those with diverse sexual and gender identities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The disproportionate impacts we are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic are rooted in structural barriers, unequal power relations, patriarchal and social norms, negative attitudes, stigma and discrimination. Impacts and implications will be context specific and influenced by factors in the wider environment such as conflict and security, economic deprivation, and geographical location.

Given the UK’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the Leave No One Behind agenda, and DFID’s Strategic Vision for Women and Girls, Disability Inclusive Development Strategy and standards, the UK is well-placed to play a key role in ensuring we mitigate any risks that the pandemic exacerbates inequalities, actively involve excluded groups, and harness opportunities to build back better.

In this IDC submission, we highlight several key areas where there are likely to be long-term issues, implications and lessons learned, including the impacts on people with disabilities (Section 3), violence against women and girls (Section 4), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+[1]) people (Section 5), women’s economic empowerment (Section 6) and on civil society (Section 7). This report is not a comprehensive analysis on gender inequality and social exclusion in COVID-19 but reflects the focus of our work so far.

Longer-term issues and implications include:

However, there are opportunities to build back better. For example, to:





These opportunities will only be harnessed if:








3       People with disabilities

People with disabilities are disproportionately represented among those living in poverty. We know that people experiencing social disadvantage and marginalization are disproportionately impacted by ill-health and that the impacts of COVID-19 are likely to be worse for people in lower socio-economic groups. Pre-existing barriers to healthcare, livelihoods, social protection and education are likely to be exacerbated during this time, undoing the progress made in recent years. People with disabilities are not a homogeneous group. Disability interacts with other factors related to age, gender and sexuality, with contextual factors such as economic deprivation, conflict and instability, urban/rural location and others to influence these barriers and lead to differential impacts amongst people with disabilities.

3.1.1      Longer-Term Issues, Implications and Lessons Learnt




Despite the likely significant negative long-term implications of COVID-19 for people with disabilities, there are opportunities to build back better. For example:




Recommendations for a disability-inclusive COVID-19 recovery:

There is a danger that, unless data is disaggregated and people with disabilities and their representative organisations (DPOs) involved in the recovery from COVID-19, including to learn lessons, exacerbated inequalities will continue, grow worse and take many years to recover from. We will also fail to prepare ourselves adequately for the next global pandemic. Below are a set of recommendations for recovery efforts from a disability-inclusive perspective:





4       Violence against women and girls (VAWG)

Many countries around the world have reported an increase in cases of domestic violence, as evidenced by increasing demand for emergency VAWG hotline and shelter services (UN Women, 2020). Previous pandemics and humanitarian emergencies have also shown how COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate other forms of violence, including trafficking, early child marriage, state-sanctioned violence, and sexual exploitation and abuse (UN Women, 2020).  Where women and girls have access to technology, there are also risks of increases in online sexual exploitation and abuse, revenge porn, cyberstalking, and abuse during online events and teaching (Fraser, 2020).


COVID-19 is having a disproportionate economic impact on women and girls, which risks enhancing their longer-term vulnerability to multiple forms of violence (Care International, 2020). When women and girls find themselves without an income and are unable to afford basic necessities (e.g. food, toiletries, clothing and accommodation), this makes  them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse by those in positions of power (such as aid workers) and makes it harder for them to leave abusive relationships.


Where state capacity is overwhelmed or where COVID-19 is instrumentalised, increased state instability presents longer term risks of VAWG, including of conflict-related sexual violence and further reductions in state capacity to respond to VAWG in the longer term (O’Rourke, 2020; Csordas, 2020).


4.1.1      Longer-Term Issues, Implications and Lessons Learnt

Lessons learnt from the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis in West Africa and emerging evidence on COVID-19 can be used by the UK Government to inform its discussions with national governments and development and humanitarian partners to ‘build back better’ and improve VAWG risk mitigation, prevention and response.





5       LGBTIQ+ people

While evidence of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on LGBTIQ+ communities in LMICs remain scarce, emerging reports from LGBTIQ+ civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights organisations shed light on how the crisis risks exacerbating pre-existing inequalities as well as give rise to specific marginalisation of LGBTIQ+ people in the COVID-19 context, especially for those who already experienced intersecting inequalities and social exclusion. This risks having long term health, economic and social impacts.

Risk of exacerbated health inequalities: Discrimination in healthcare settings limited LGBTIQ+ people’s access to health services prior to COVID-19 (Social Development Direct, 2017a). These structural barriers risk blocking LGBTIQ+ people from accessing COVID-19 related care, and access to regular medical treatments, including HIV testing and treatment and gender-affirming care, risk being disrupted given the immense pressures on health care systems under the current crisis (Edge Effect, 2020; OHCHR, 2020). LGBTIQ+ CSOs have expressed serious concern that the COVID-19 crisis will have long term impact on LGBTIQ+ people’s mental health (Edge Effect, 2020). Social isolation, loss of livelihoods, and exposure to domestic violence and abuse are some factors that risk exacerbating already high levels of mental health conditions among LGBTIQ+ people globally (LBTI Caucus, 2020).

Risk of increased economic marginalisation: LGBTIQ+ CSOs in LMICs have reported that LGBTIQ+ people have lost their livelihoods following lockdown measures and are struggling to access COVID-19 relief services (e.g. because of discriminatory attitudes by providers and lack of ID cards) (Edge Effect, 2020). LGBTIQ+ people in LMICs were already more likely to work in the informal sector and be under- or unemployed, leading to high levels of poverty and homelessness prior to the crisis (OHCHR, 2020; Social Development Direct, 2017b). In addition, CSOs highlight that LGBTIQ+ people are less likely to have savings or be able to rely on traditional support systems such as family and kin (Edge Effect, 2020). Pre-existing economic marginalisation and exclusion from emergency services and aid distribution provided by governments and organisations risks leaving LGBTIQ+ people further ‘behind’ economically and hamper recovery from the economic impact of the crisis (Edge Effect 2020).  

Risk of economic impact on LGBTIQ+ CSOs: LGBTIQ+ CSOs have an essential role to play in the COVID-19 response and in providing long term support and services to LGBTIQ+ communities. However, LGBTIQ+ CSOs fear that the global economic impact of COVID-19 will put LGBTIQ+ CSOs under financial pressures, especially in the Global South and East where organisations were already underfunded (Vaughn et al. 2020; Edge Effect 2020). Reduced economic support could result in LGBTIQ+ CSOs having to withdraw or put services on hold, presenting significant risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people. Disruption of LGBTIQ+ CSOs existing and planned work risk slowing down long-term progress towards equal rights and opportunities for people of all genders and diverse sexual orientations.

Risk of exacerbated social exclusion and deteriorating situation for LGBTIQ+ people: Reports from several countries witness of LGBTIQ+ people being ‘blamed’ for causing and/ or spreading COVID-19 (Edge Effect, 2020). This risk reinforcing existing prejudices and fuel negative attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people. In some countries (e.g. Uganda and the Philippines), LGBTIQ+ people have been targeted by authorities that have used COVID-19 restrictions to humiliate and arrest LGBTIQ+ people (Goshal, 2020; Thoreson, 2020). This indicates that the COVID-19 crisis risk leading to a deteriorating situation for LGBTIQ+ people in countries that were already hostile for sexual and gender minorities. 

Previous crisis responses have showed that LGBTIQ+ people are at high risk of being excluded as governments and organisations repeatedly fail to reach LGBTIQ+ people and engage LGBTIQ+ CSOs in the response (see e.g. Knight, 2016). Lessons learned from previous emergencies stress the importance of LGBTIQ+ voice and participation in design and implementation of interventions, and highlights the need for LGBTIQ+ awareness and inclusive practices among frontline workers in emergencies (ADPC, OCHA and UN Women, 2017).

The COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity for governments, donors and organisations to model an intersectional and inclusive approach within the response and long-term recovery that includes recognition, inclusion and accountability towards LGBTIQ+ people. Key messages from LGBTIQ+ and human rights organisations include:



6 Impacts on women’s economic empowerment

If women participated in the economy as much as men, their activity could add an additional $28 trillion—26 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP)[6]. However, as COVID-19 causes economic activity to grind to a halt, the  experience of previous health crises and emerging data suggests that women’s economic and productive lives will be affected disproportionately and differently from men, resulting in a prolonged decline in women’s incomes and labour force participation. This will entrench economic inequalities in the long term and threaten decades of progress on women’s economic empowerment unless action is taken. Intersecting inequalities experienced by women and girls – due to age, disability, ethnicity, immigration status, race, sexual orientation, and other factors—further aggravates these effects.

Women are over-represented in occupations that are being hardest hit by COVID-19, such as leisure, travel, hospitality, textile and apparel manufacturing and retail sales, with barriers to re-entry leading to reinforcement of economic inequalities. For example, the majority of workers in the garment sector in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Cambodia are women.[7] Already, millions of garments workers, mostly women, have been sent home without further pay due to COVID-19 (Paz et al, 2020). Unlike in previous recessions, social distancing measures as a result of COVID-19 have a large impact on female-dominated sectors with a resultant high share of job losses for women (Alon et al, 2020). A sizeable literature documents that earnings losses from job losses are highly persistent and much more severe when they occur in recessions (See Stevens, 1997; Davis and von Wachter, 2011; and Jarosch, 2015; in Alon et al, 2020).

70 per cent of women’s employment in developing economies is in the informal sector[8], which often leaves them out of formal social protection measures including dismissal, sick pay or income support. Jobs such as food vendors may adjust to greater mobility demands (as individuals travel house-to-house during a lockdown), thereby shifting the sector towards being more male-dominated. (Paz et al, 2020). Movement restrictions may also impact women who work in the gig economy, as they are unable to go out to work (CARE-IRC, 2020).

Female overseas domestic and migrant workers are being adversely affected by COVID-19. Unpredictable travel bans and movement restrictions as a result of the pandemic are inhibiting migrant workers ability to access employment, many of whom travel in southeast Asia between the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. (Wenham et al, 2020; GIHA, 2020). Remittances to low- and middle-income countries will fall by nearly 20%, with devastating consequences for those who rely on this financing for survival (World Bank, 2020).

Past health crises have shown that women’s incomes take longer to recover in the long term due to the nature of their work. For example, during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, most self-employed women were engaged in the sale of perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables, which went to waste because of customers fears that they would contract Ebola, whereas men’s businesses, mostly dealing in non-perishable goods, recouped faster. (Gupta, 2020; Paz et al, 2020; UN, 2020) COVID-19 will worsen the persistent gender wage gap as women and girls - concentrated in lower-paid jobs - sacrifice their positions to care for others, and as informal and/or lower paid positions become more scarce with higher competition. (CARE, 2020a). Women and girls who lose their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic may increasingly seek positions in higher-risk sectors, putting them at increased risk of violence and abuse, a trend observed during the 2014–16 West Africa and 2018–2020 Democratic Republic of the Congo Ebola outbreaks. (ibid).

A significant increase in multiple care responsibilities could lead to the permanent exit from the labour market for many women. Women already do three-times as much unpaid care work than men[9]. The demand for care work is rapidly increasing with children out-of-school and heightened care needs of older persons and overwhelmed health services as a result of the pandemic. As observed in similar crises, women will likely be the ones taking on most of these additional care responsibilities. In the absence of any alternative support mechanisms and the economic disruption brought about by COVID-19, households may be confronted with the need to prioritise the highest-paid job in the household - most often corresponding to men (Lewis, 2020; Paz et al, 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic could, conversely, accelerate social norm change which may promote gender equality in the labour market through persisting reallocation of care duties within households as men take up a greater share of childcare, and through employers adopting flexible working arrangements which recognise women’s care responsibilities (Alon et al, 2020).

The disproportionate impact of the financial consequences of the pandemic on women and girls will make it more difficult for them to pay back debt and could drive financial exclusion. Coupled with the informality of many women’s and girls’ businesses, they are likely to be perceived as “high risk” and be prevented from accessing finance in future. (CARE, 2020a)

Evidence from past epidemics shows that adolescent girls are at particular risk of not returning to school even after the crisis is over, with lasting consequences for their economic and health prospects. School closures can increase teenage pregnancy and prevalence of child labour (UNICEF, 2020). The economic instability caused by COVID-19 could further increase the risk of child, early, and forced marriage for adolescent girls.[10] Households may also decide to take their children out of school due to economic hardship. In these cases girls are often withdrawn from schooling before boys (CARE, 2020b).

Women may be the hardest hit by an acceleration in automation induced by COVID-19. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, automation was expected to disproportionately impact women’s employment (Amerasinghe, 2016). As a result of COVID19, companies are preparing to invest in automation for a post-crisis world (Guardian, 2020; Corkery & Gelles, 2020), which could lead to disproportionate risk to livelihoods for women if not planned for. Jobs in restaurants, retail, and recreation (which each have a high share of female employment and are currently being impacted by the pandemic) were already expected to be heavily automated in the near future (Frey and Osborne, 2016).

In lower-income countries, women are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of food scarcity as a result of a public health emergency. Poor households and those living in slums, camps or similarly vulnerable situations will be particularly vulnerable to the pandemic and its economic impacts (Paz et al, 2020). In some contexts, and due to food insecurity, girls and women would decrease their caloric intake in favour of men and boys[11].

Other epidemics have shown that people with disabilities experience disproportionate economic impacts and a failure to provide inclusive social protection. This results in worsening deprivation, including food insecurity, for people with disabilities. (Meaney-Davies et al, 2020)

Emerging evidence of increased gender-based violence as a result of the pandemic is impeding women’s participation in economic activities. This “shadow pandemic” affects women and girls at work and in their homes, with reports of increased workplace violence, harassment and exploitation faced by women as a result of COVID-19 (Fraser, 2020; CARE, 2020b; UNICEF 2020).

The longer-term economic recovery packages that governments will be introducing in the coming months will influence whether internationally agreed targets on climate change will be met. Economic recovery packages can set the course for a just transition to a green economy, to build back better and more resilient economies. To mitigate disproportionate impacts faced by marginalised groups in relation to COVID 19 and the climate crisis, there is a need to ensure these efforts are gender and disability-inclusive. Despite an initial dip during the 2008 financial crisis, emissions rebounded quickly following an increase in the fossil fuel intensity of world economy as environmental protections were deprioritised (Bär and Runkel, 2020; Peters et al, 2011). Given the urgency of the climate crisis, and the threat that climate change poses to the most vulnerable groups, there is greater impetus to take this opportunity to invest in a sustainable future economy.


7 Impacts on civil society

Civil society plays a fundamental role in social, political and economic development. In times of crisis, civil society is uniquely well-placed to convene civic dialogue with government and other sectors and to amplify the voices of citizens – especially the voices of marginalised people – in both policy and crisis response. Civil society organisations (CSOs), big and small, are indispensable delivery partners in emergencies and crisis response. Larger NGOs and civil society coalitions can mobilise quickly at scale to provide direct, life-saving assistance. Social movements and smaller, community-based organisations (CBOs) can partner with others to support hard-to-reach communities. CSOs are a critical channel for dissemination of accurate, accessible information and communications, particularly to remotely located and marginalised people. They can keep government and the private sector informed on the specific crisis impacts and needs of marginalised and vulnerable groups – and they can mobilise citizen participation in the making and monitoring of more effective public policy solutions. Perhaps most importantly, civil society can hold governments and the private sector to account, coordinate the emergency efforts of CSOs, and collect vital community-based evidence needed to improve current and future responses to crises.

Prior to the advent of COVID-19, civil society space in many parts of the world was shrinking. Many governments had already introduced laws and policies that restrict people’s freedom of association, their right to peaceful assembly, and their participation in policymaking, monitoring and accountability (Belalba Barreto et al, 2019). In various countries, CSOs face growing constraints on their advocacy work and access to funding in relation to politically sensitive issues like human rights. Movements and organisations representing the rights of women, LGBTIQ+ people and indigenous peoples have been experiencing increasing backlash, often violent, from governments, traditionalist or nationalist leaders and extremist groups. Unless national and international actors work together to defend civic space, the COVID-19 crisis may intensify these negative trends.[12]  

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, wider restrictions on movement, assembly, expression, information and privacy have been introduced – justified as measures to prevent the spread of the virus. While some restrictions on civil rights may be acceptable during serious public health emergencies, under international human rights law such measures must meet certain conditions. For example, emergency restrictions must be based on scientific evidence and proportionality, must not be arbitrary or discriminatory, and should be instituted for a fixed duration. Otherwise, they can lead to human rights violations and have long-term repressive impacts on civic freedoms, citizen voice, participation and accountability. Increasing reports and examples of abuses are emerging of restrictive and emergency measures that have been applied arbitrarily, discriminately, or for political gain (see for instance Human Rights Watch, 2020; Sceats, 2020; Civicus, 2020a).

In the longer term, emergency restrictions could set the scene for setbacks on rights of free assembly, association and expression – and they could be used to suppress citizen voice. Concerns have been raised about restrictions on movement being used to suppress the voices of particular social groups. In Kyrgyzstan, members of women’s rights organisations (WROs) were arrested for holding a protest against domestic violence for International Women’s Day in March, even though there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country at the time (Al Jazeera, 2020). In other countries, restrictions on movement due to coronavirus have led to public demonisation of protest groups – for example, in India a local leader from the ruling Hindu nationalist party said Muslim protestors challenging controversial new citizenship laws during lockdown were ‘like terrorists on a suicide mission’ (Taragahi, 2020).

Censorship and increased control of information may become entrenched and be used to silence civic voice, even when the pandemic recedes. Some states have censored information about coronavirus and governments’ handling of the pandemic, and some have restricted access to public information. In China, the doctor who first raised concerns about the outbreak on WeChat was accused by police of spreading rumours. The chat thread was shut down and he was warned to stop telling people about the virus, on pain of imprisonment (Bociurkiw, 2020). Since then, at least four citizen journalists and critics in China have been censored, arrested, put under surveillance or disappeared, and discussion of government policies and the pandemic has been censored on the popular messaging platform WeChat (Funk and Linzer, 2020). In Thailand, officials have targeted whistle-blowers for sharing information about shortages of supplies and related corruption (Human Right Watch, 2020), while other countries, such as Iran, have restricted access to information by banning all print media distribution (CPJ, 2020). In some countries, such as Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador, deadlines and requirements for public institutions to respond to freedom of information requests have been suspended (OCCRP, 2020).

Intrusive public surveillance and policing measures could be expanded and continue beyond the pandemic. Many countries have introduced digital surveillance measures to monitor the location of citizens during the pandemic, track the spread of the virus and attempt to contain it. China, South Korea, Italy and Israel have been using smartphone software and/or location data to monitor citizens’ movements, and in China citizens’ health status is reportedly colour-coded and shared with police (Funk and Linzer, 2020). In several Africa countries, where police and military gave been given extraordinary powers to enforce lockdown regulations, there have been reports of excessive violence and abuse by the security forces (Allen and du Plessis, 2020). Such forms of surveillance and social control could potentially persist in some countries after the pandemic, posing a threat to human rights activists and civic groups whose movements and activities have already come under antagonistic scrutiny.

Emergency state executive powers could be extended and abused for political gain, leading to increased human rights violations. The pandemic has prompted many governments to declare states of emergency that grant increased and sometimes unrestrained powers to the executive branch with little or no oversight and no end date clearly specified. In Cambodia, a new emergency law grants wide-ranging powers to government. For example, organisations that are deemed to be obstructing the state’s response to the emergency or noncompliant with the response in a way that creates ‘public chaos’ can be fined up to 1 billion riels (approx. $250,000). Individuals found similarly non-compliant could face fines and hefty jail sentences (Civil Rights Defenders, 2020; AKP, 2020). Since the emergency was introduced, at least 17 activists and critics of the regime have been arrested, including members of the banned opposition party (Chan Thul and Birsel, 2020). In the Philippines, President Duterte, who has been granted broad emergency powers to deal with the pandemic, has said he will order police and military to shoot anyone who “creates trouble,” raising concerns that he may use these powers to punish opponents (Haltiwanger, 2020). The introduction of emergency executive powers is particularly worrying in countries where previous emergency decrees have led to widespread human rights abuses, for example, in Ethiopia where states of emergency in 2016 and 2018 resulted in mass arrests, widespread torture, and the suspension of public media (Badwaza, 2020).

CSOs will be negatively impacted by the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In recent months, the public fundraising income of CSOs in many countries has been reduced. Many international non-government organisations (INGOs) have been affected by sudden changes to institutional funding as priorities have shifted towards the pandemic response. In April 2020, a survey by Bond in the UK found that 86% of INGOs were either considering or actively cutting back overseas programme implementation, including postponement of activities, closing country offices, or limiting income to global programmes (Bond, 2020). Similarly, an April 2020 survey of 125 CSOs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) found that two-thirds of CSOs had taken at least one cost-cutting measure, most commonly cutting back services, and almost half of CSOs reported that they would have to close in the next three months without additional funding (LINC, 2020). Local CSOs in LMICs (particularly women’s rights organisations, disabled people’s organisations and organisations representing sexual and gender minorities) were already chronically underfunded before the pandemic. For marginalised people who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,[13] these grassroots CSOs are critical to vital service delivery, protection of rights and an effective COVID-19 response. If aid budgets and public donations decline in the medium to long-term, these organisations may face an existential threat. Many NGOs and CSOs have called for unrestricted funding to support their core operational costs, continued funding for vital work that was underway prior to the pandemic, and the prioritisation of funding for local organisations (in line with existing good practice models like the ‘Grand Bargain,’ an international agreement between large donors and humanitarian aid providers that aims to get more resources into the hands of people in need).[14]

Civil society certainly faces daunting challenges that vary according to context, but it is also proving its worth in many ways. Across the globe, citizens and CSOs are mobilising quickly and repurposing their work around COVID-19 to support their communities, share vital information and fight disinformation. As documented in the Carnegie Endowment’s recent overview analysis, they are reaching out to government and business, exploring new forms of civic mobilisation (Brechenmacher, Carothers and Youngs, 2020). Human rights and environmental groups are using new creative methods to continue their activism. Many organisations representing women, people with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ people and other groups in the firing line of the pandemic are advocating successfully for a more inclusive response to the pandemic. To support these civil society efforts, the Carnegie article usefully recommends that public and private sector actors give priority to flexible funding of  CSOs, actively connect civic groups to government pandemic responses, and push back against the trend towards growing constriction of civil society rights, civic freedoms and civic space. The long-term impact of the pandemic on civil society will depend on certain key variables: how governments use or abuse emergency restrictions; the extent to which governments and the private sector actively listen to and coordinate with civil society; the extent to which people and institutions provide much-needed financial and in-kind support to civil society, both locally and globally; and the extent to which civil society acts collectively, testing out innovative partnerships, to turn the immediate crisis response into an opportunity for broader systemic change. Ultimately, future resilience to shocks like COVID-19 depends on a fundamental pivot in the direction of a more equal, inclusive world in which active citizenship for all is valued and nurtured.




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[1] LGBTIQ+ is an acronym encompassing all minority sexual and gender identities.

[2] Intersectionality is a concept coined by Kimberley Crenshaw in 1989, examining links between gender and race in the United States, including in her paper “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color


[4] Representative organisations include Disabled People’s Organisations and disability focused organisations.


[6] McKinsey Global Institute, “The Power of Global Gender Parity Report,” 2015,

[7] Bangladesh - See Farole et al, 2020.

Myanmar -

Cambodia -

[8] Globally, informal employment is a greater source of employment for men (63.0 per cent) than for women (58.1 per cent), but in low and lower-middle income countries, a higher proportion of women are in informal employment than men. (, pages 20-21)


[10] Inter-Agency Steering Committee, “Guidelines for Integrating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing Risk, Promoting Resilience, and Aiding Recovery,” 2015,

[11] UN World Food Program (WFP), “Women Are Hungrier,” WFP, accessed May 5, 2020,

[12] See May 2020 joint statement to UN on the human rights impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic from 11 NGOs,

[13] For more information on impacts for the gender and inclusion impacts of COVID-19, see the SDDirect blog series at

[14] For more on civil society recommendations on funding, partnerships and sustainability in the crisis, see CIVICUS (2020b) Open Letter “Donors and supporters must act to ensure civil society resilience against COVID-19 pandemic”, and ICVA (2020) Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce: Localization in the COVID-19  Global Humanitarian Response,