Mayuravarshini Mohana
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The pandemic is a testing time for global leadership and disaster management. While heads of several countries still grapple with the issue, women continue to make dynamic contributions towards controlling the crisis at global, national and local levels. At this juncture we see the world finally noticing the true potential of women as leaders. A study by Garikipati and Kambhampati found that countries led by women exhibited better Covid management and produced systemically better outcomes. These include countries like Denmark, Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Slovakia and Germany where women are head of state. Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, a consultancy service on global gender balance, notices a common thread of trust, tech, love and decisiveness among women leaders during Covid management. Their authenticity and inclusive approach worked magic in reining in the Covid mayhem.

Apart from the administrative sector, the pandemic also saw women take charge at the grassroots. The tireless contribution of workers like aagewans and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) has been recognised globally. They have played a crucial role in propagating awareness and controlling the spread of the virus at the rural level.

While focus largely remains on healthcare and sanitation, many women professionals and entrepreneurs have taken affirmative action in addressing concomitant issues that arise out of a global crisis as the pandemic. Sharon Mathew, an environmental lawyer, found people losing access to healthcare and other resources owing to a lack of awareness of legal rights. A colleague’s landlord had lost his life since a hospital wouldn’t provide timely treatment without a positive RC-PTR report. The landlord was unaware of his essential right to medical assistance. So she started COVIDRights, a website where people can reach out to lawyers for pro-bono advice. Over the course of time, the website has helped assist people with a wide range of pandemic-sprung legal issues such as compelled payment of tuition fee.

The pandemic has clearly proved that the active involvement of women will catalyse holistic betterment of societies. Mckinsey Global Institute’s economic modelling shows that achieving women’s equality could add trillions of dollars to global growth, even in countries with fewer resources. It could also drastically improve quality of living on a global level. When women are at the helm, there is a striking increase in policy making, and advancement of overall growth and social equality. That said, at present only 7% of world leaders are women.

The pre-pandemic era exposed a blatant gender gap which has only widened further during the pandemic. Despite the proven proactive leadership of women, the glass ceiling is only thickening. The prevalent patriarchal dogmas and stereotypes make it harder for women to access the upper echelons of administration. In fact, the pandemic has only reversed the progress made by feminist struggles. The rise in violence against women and loss of economic power, education and autonomy, portends the regression of our society to stringent patriarchy.

To reinvigorate the course of feminist progress, initiatives are being taken to advance gender equality. Countries like New Zealand, Slovakia and Germany stand testimony to the mammoth potential of women, and the world has finally taken note of it. In this light, the Global Gender Equality Forum scheduled for 30 June to 2 July (2021), Paris will potentially be a landmark event towards furthering gender equality. With joint constructive steps and affirmative action, a gender equal future is not far from our grasp.