Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has put humanity to the test. It is exposing and deepening existing inequalities, particularly among underserved populations, including the women that Pro Mujer serves across Latin America. Over its 30-year history, Pro Mujer has become one of the largest women’s organizations in the region in part due to its extended network of partners and allies, working together through the years to advance gender equality. The pandemic has only reinforced the importance of this approach. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that public and private sector leaders come together and take action.
What Does Covid-19 Have to Do With Gender?
According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), 80% of all nurses in Latin America are women, many of whom are or will be on the front lines of the pandemic. Approximately 40% of women work in the hotel, restaurant or domestic work industry, some of the most economically affected sectors. And 83% of women in Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru hold informal jobs without benefits such as social security, unemployment, and workers’ compensation. Furthermore, gender-based violence, including domestic violence, has drastically increased as widespread stay-at-home orders force many women into confinement with their abusers.
Lifting Up Women Entrepreneurs
Due to the lockdown measures implemented by governments, small businesses are shutting down and leaving millions of people out of work. It is estimated that approximately 107 million women in Latin America could be in poverty as a result of this crisis.
Most of Pro Mujer’s beneficiaries are micro-entrepreneurs or self-employed women working in the informal sector. Many of them had to shut down their clothing shops, bakeries, restaurants and other local businesses. They are now with empty hands and no income to provide for their families. In many cases, they are the principal breadwinners for their households.
As a way to support these women and advance efforts to contain the pandemic, Pro Mujer is working with the private sector to find ways to connect health facilities and providers with its network of microentrepreneurs who can manufacture high-quality masks and medical gowns. At least 180 small businesses that could participate have been identified.
Many women entrepreneurs are afraid of losing their clients. Pro Mujer is collaborating with Facebook to provide free online workshops to teach them how to use social media to expand their businesses, sell their products or services, and create powerful content to gain more clients.
Beyond Covid-19: The Power of Sustainable Solidarity
The pandemic has brought to light the importance of building sustainable, long-lasting systems that prioritize the needs of women and girls and promote gender equality. These are systems that must be built on solid partnership and the commitment to work together. Deliver for Good embodies this as a global network where collaboration is its motto. It creates the kinds of spaces needed now, more than ever, to advocate and fuel concrete actions.
Today, partnerships across organizations and sectors will need to adapt so that programs and collaborations can continue to make an impact. As part of Pro Mujer’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson, a recent initiative was re-shaped in the face of Covid-19. A campaign to debunk taboos on menstruation and provide feminine hygiene products to thousands of women and girls in Argentina, had to be quickly digitized and made accessible. The swift work was well worth the effort. More than seven thousand virtual workshops have been carried out.
Building alliances has become part of Pro Mujer’s DNA because when we lean on each other, we can move mountains. Through crises of all kinds, communities can overcome adversity through collective action, driven by a firm commitment to create a better future for our younger generations. We need each other. That is the key to a real solution.