HRC48: Half-Day Panel Discussion on Deepening Inequalities Exacerbated by the Pandemic

October 5, 2021 Website Cover (24)

This statement was submitted to the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council Half-Day Panel Discussion on Deepening Inequalities Exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Watch a video of the statement here.

No one is safe until everyone is: Feminist demands to equitable, accessible and affordable COVID-19 vaccines

After more than a year into the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to deepen the already existing, brutal inequalities including multidimensional inequalities and the longstanding gender inequality experienced by women, girls and young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and multiplied the scale and severity of the existing inequalities which is evident in the absence of universal and equitable access to vaccines for the most marginalised and vulnerable communities. Despite 14% of the world’s population residing in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), only 1.2% of the global COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered here[1]. In terms of people, only 3.1% of the population in the LDCs have received at least one dose of vaccine. Furthermore, the pandemic has reversed the years of progress around the SDGs made on human rights, including in achieving gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights of all women, girls and young people.[2]

We were hopeful that, with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines, the number of new infections will reduce, the impact of the pandemic will be lessened, and all nations will be on the road to recovery, focusing energies on building back better. While this may be true for many parts of the Global North, Global South continues to suffer with the new waves of infections with emergence of new virulent variants. Latest data in August 2021 indicate that only 11.6% of people in Asia are fully vaccinated compared to 41.6% in Europe and 38.8% in North America.[3]

This is made worse by unjust inequalities in accessing COVID-19 vaccines especially for women, girls and young people, particularly, the marginalised and vulnerable, including but not limited to the poor, lesser educated, from rural and hard-to-reach areas, with disability, of lower caste, indigenous, ethnic minorities, diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, those suffered by humanitarian crisis resulting from conflict and climate change, stateless, and undocumented migrants. The lives of the vulnerable and marginalised depend on these factors, which determines how fast and who will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and who will not, who will live and who will be sacrificed.

In fighting this pandemic, no one should be left behind. No one is safe until everyone is. The disproportionate impact of the crisis on women, girls and young people is undeniable, but it is not irrevocable and it was never unavoidable. To win the fight against COVID-19, Member States need to place gender equality at the centre of their response to the pandemic. With this, we urge the Member States:

  • Recognise that gender responsive and intersectional approach is essential for protecting and fulfilling human rights, including ensuring access to equitable, accessible and affordable COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, especially for women, girls and young people from the marginalised and vulnerable backgrounds. The removal of structural and systemic barriers is essential for achieving this and must start with the formation and implementation of laws and policies that do not discriminate against women, girls and young people.
  • Place the most vulnerable and marginalised women, girls and young people at the center of all crisis and disaster management policies and in addition to vaccines access, incorporate provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services into the national crisis and disaster management policies, budget and programmes.
  • Provide adequate and accurate information about vaccine’s safety and efficacy for all especially pregnant women, breast feeding women, and transgender people. Organisation of vaccination should be safe and friendly for these groups especially.
  • Recognise that women and young people play a critical role in COVID-19 crisis management and mitigation and include them equally and meaningfully in the designing, implementation, financing and monitoring of the crisis response and recovery, ensuring that the response and recovery at the local, national, regional and international levels include gender and human rights perspectives.
  • Improve public investment on health and develop social protection systems especially for universal access to health including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women, girls, and young people especially the marginalised and vulnerable groups and COVID-19 prevention, treatment and care.
  • Increase mass awareness on vaccines among the public especially among those in the rural and hard to reach areas and speed up the roll out of vaccination at the national and local levels complemented by adequate budgets and policies and guidelines that are inclusive of women and young people, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalised.
  • Support a temporary suspension for global Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreements & other global trade policies in the duration of COVID-19 pandemic to allow equitable production, distribution and accessibility of vaccination and other health technologies for the people especially in the low and middle income countries (or Global South) in fighting the pandemic within the present context as well as preparation against any possible future pandemic.
  • Deploy an analytical approach on addressing the impact of COVID-19 on achieving all SDGs particularly Goal 3 on health, Goal 5 on gender equality and of course on Goal 10 on reducing inequalities with the emphasis on eliminating vaccine inequality.
  • Lastly, the investment should also be made on disaggregated data for monitoring and strengthening policies and programmes especially for decision making in all aspects of response and recovery during a crisis.

 

This statement is endorsed by:

Name of organisations:

  1. Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
  2. Action to the Community Development Institute, Vietnam
  3. Batik Internation, Vietnam
  4. Beyond Beijing Committee Nepal
  5. Blue Diamond Society, Nepal
  6. Centre for Communication and Development of Bangladesh (CCD)
  7. Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP), Vietnam
  8. Centre for Social Policy Development, Pakistan
  9. Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiative, Vietnam
  10. Faculty of Public Health, University of Health Sciences, Lao PDR
  11. Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
  12. Gravity Development Organization, Pakistan
  13. Green Circle Organization, Pakistan
  14. Institute for Social Development Studies, Vietnam
  15. Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society (LEDARS), Bangladesh
  16. Naripokkho, Bangladesh
  17. Participatory Research Action Network- PRAAN
  18. PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc.
  19. Restless Development Nepal
  20. Rutgers WPF Indonesia
  21. Shelter Participatory Organization (SPO), Pakistan
  22. Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre
  23. Visible Impact
  24. Yayasan Kesehatan Perempuan, Indonesia
  25. YUWA, Nepal
  26. Yuwalaya
  27. Society for Health Education (SHE), Maldives
  28. CDS Park, Nepal

Name of individuals:

  1. Sanila Gurung, Nepal
  2. Nisha Adhikari
  3. Saphon Somolireasmey, Cambodia
  4. Rajendra Maharjan, Nepal
  5. Manisha Dhakal, Nepal
  6. Umme Salma; Bangladesh
  7. Medha Sharma, Nepal
  8. Santosh Maharjan, Nepal
  9. Losana Tuiraviravi, Fiji
  10. Shahana Parveen, Bangladesh
  11. Aja Bahadur Shahi, Nepal

[1] Vaccinations and COVID-19 Funding for Least Developed Countries. Accessed on 9 September 2021, https://www.un.org/ohrlls/content/covid-19-ldcs

[2] Vaccinations and COVID-19 Funding for Least Developed Countries. Accessed on 9 September 2021, https://www.un.org/ohrlls/content/covid-19-ldcs

[3] Our World in Data, accessed on 2nd September 2021, https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

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