The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have impacted women more than men around the world and in Asia. More investments to reduce gender gaps that have widened will be key to building a more resilient and inclusive future for Asia and the Pacific.
And one of the key markers of equality and of a person’s chance to succeed and get ahead is literacy. The data below from the Asian Development Bank on female literacy rates is a wake up call.
How deep is the problem?
According to the ADB, seven out of 10 informal workers in developing Asia are women, while women dominate low wage jobs in sectors that have been the worst hit by the pandemic. Women-owned businesses have also been hard hit with the rate of closures as much as 6 to 7 percentage points higher than male-owned businesses in the first half of 2020 . With schools closed, the elderly sheltered, and the sick quarantined at home, the pandemic has created a crisis of care for women who undertake the majority of family and domestic work. This not only poses greater health risks for women but has undermined their livelihoods as many have had to leave the labor force to care for their families.
As women have borne the brunt of the pandemic, they are also among the most vulnerable groups to the worsening climate crisis. Six of the world’s 10 climate-related disasters most damaging to agriculture between 2003 to 2013 occurred in Asia and many women in the region are dependent on agriculture and natural ecosystems for livelihoods, with little to no resources to cope with shock events.
Strengthening women’s economic empowerment, enhancing gender equality, and boosting women’s resilience to external shocks are operational priorities for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under its Strategy 2030 development framework. Operational Priority 2 lays out the approaches ADB is taking to address these issues, including scaling up gender mainstreaming across its operations and providing integrated solutions that can tackle multiple gender inequalities. ADB has committed to ensuring 75% of its committed operations promote gender equality and support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030.