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Event: International Women’s Day 2021 – women’s leadership in building back better after COVID-19

On International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat will host a virtual event to put a spotlight on women’s leadership in responding to COVID-19 and charting an equitable recovery.  

Uneven burden

The pandemic has highlighted the uneven burden women carry and their critical leadership in homes, in communities and across all levels of government. 

On one hand, domestic violence has risen rapidly, many girls may never return to school and decades of progress toward gender diversity is at risk. On the other, women have been leading COVID-19 responses to save lives, empower communities and put a focus on women’s needs in relief and support measures.

Underrepresented in leadership roles

However, women remain underrepresented in leadership roles across all sectors due to systemic barriers. For instance, only 13 Commonwealth countries have more than 30 per cent of female representation in parliament.

Evidence suggests a lack of gender diversity in leadership overlooks women’s perspectives and their unique vulnerabilities, often leading to poor decisions.

Against this backdrop, the event will focus on gender-sensitive policies, laws and budgets to ensure women have equal representation and decision-making power in building back better after the pandemic.

In her message, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will pay tribute to women leaders and will call on member countries to put gender equality at the centre of recovery efforts. 

Ways to include more women

An expert panel will share the efforts being made by their organisations and communities to respond and recover from the impacts of the pandemic. They will also discuss ways to include more women in shaping the design, development and delivery of recovery efforts at all levels.

The 2021 global theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.

Featured speakers

  • Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO, Commonwealth of Learning
  • Hon Lucy Slack, Deputy Secretary General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum
  • Dr Anne Gallagher, Director-General, Commonwealth Foundation
  • Hon Shandana Gulzar Khan, MNA National Assembly of Pakistan & Chairperson, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians
  • Moderator: Dr Greg Munro, Secretary General Commonwealth Local Government Forum