Gates Foundation seeks more women inclusion in economic recovery

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has called for intentional focus on a global economic recovery that includes women.

Mark Suzman, Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, made the call on Tuesday during a virtual Goalkeepers Press Conference.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Goalkeepers Report, an annual publication of the foundation, tracks 18 key indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which are critical to long term development.

Suzman said that the 2021 Goalkeepers Report revealed a huge challenge around gender as women were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that the impact on women was due to them being disproportionately caregivers in households and undertaking three times unpaid care as men globally.

According to him, 13 million more jobs were lost by women than men, thus calling for intentional focus on women’s inclusion in economic recovery.

Suzman said to drive economic recovery, there should be an expansion of COVID-19 vaccine availability globally, including across the African continent.

“There is no question that it is an outrage that at the moment, 80 per cent of all vaccines have been distributed to high and upper middle-income countries.

“Only one per cent of vaccines have been distributed in low-income countries.

“On the continent of Africa, I believe the current vaccination rate is around 1.8 per cent, where the majority of rich countries, the majority of their population, is now vaccinated.

“That is both morally wrong. It’s wrong on a public health level, and it’s short sighted at the global economic level because it disrupts long term economic recovery,” he said.

He called for a rapid expansion of vaccine availability that should start with the COVAX initiatives which the foundation had supported.

Suzman said that the report also showed that 90 per cent of high-income countries would return to their per capita income levels of 2019 by the end of this year or early 2022.

He, however, said that for the developing world, only one in three countries would return to those levels by that timeline.

According to him, the challenges present an opportunity for a more focused response at a national, regional and global level to build back and accelerate progress across health, education, financial inclusion, and sanitation.

Suzman stressed the need to tackle the immediate crisis of COVID-19 and vaccine access, while monitoring the social and economic issues arising from the pandemic.

Also, Cheikh Seydi, Africa Director, BMGF, said that the pandemic had pushed about 40 million people into extreme poverty.

Seydi said that countries like South Africa had hit record highs in terms of its level of unemployment, while attributing it to the impact of the pandemic.

“With increased unemployment, we’ve seen gender-based violence also increase.

“There have also been limits to some of the key services that women would benefit from, including family planning,” he said.

He said that the foundation remained optimistic, resolute and committed to finding solutions to address the challenges.

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