women in action

Women on the move


In our post-viral world, major issues concerning the environment, education, and international relations arise. UNESCO has invited leading thinkers in fields ranging from climatology to international relations, physics and African studies to express their vision of the challenges and opportunities ahead after the COVID-19 pandemic. A key moment for an overview of the role of women in the world during this health crisis. And a first when we know the positions and power of men in the public and political spheres...

For Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, "... I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have contributed to this project. The VIDOC-19 pandemic crisis is shaking societies; it is also shaking the evidence. While the pandemic is still ongoing, and no one knows how it will end, it is urgent to take the time to think. The pandemic is not only an unprecedented object to think about: above all, it reaffirms the need to think about the world of which it is a revelation. It is to this that UNESCO, as a world laboratory of ideas, contributes. This think tank is neither a closed circle nor an ivory tower. On the contrary! It is about contributing to the collective intelligence of a changing world. All activities will be open to new ideas and new voices. Above all, UNESCO will be open to activities it had not imagined, to ideas it had not thought of. "

The first six short videos are now online, bringing a female perspective to the major current issues in environment, education, and international relations. UNESCO has chosen to focus on women's perspectives in these first interventions, while in too many countries the reflections on burning issues remain too often dominated by male voices.

Let's remember! Simone de Beauvoir stated, as early as 1949, in The second sexthe need not to reduce the hierarchy of the sexes to a fate fixed around biological data, because "They do not explain why women are the Other; they do not condemn them to maintain this subordinate role forever. » (2001 [1949], p. 71).
Jean Vogel, in 1998 (1), has clearly demonstrated that at the " Throughout history, power has always been held by men, in the family (domestic sphere), in civil society (social sphere) and in the State (political sphere). ".

The world turns... and changes

In the 2017 legislative elections, the National Assembly included 38.7% of women MPs (224 out of 577), which is a huge improvement compared to 1944 when there were only 33 women MPs out of an assembly of 586, or 5.6 % of the elected representatives. (2).

According to a beautiful story told about the Mediapart blog by Jacqueline Derens, it seems that women in power have managed the pandemic better than men: " Immersed in the morbid statistics, appalled by the catastrophic economic forecasts, revolted by the social inequalities in the face of the pandemic, outraged by the contempt with which the medical profession is treated, while its dedication to the point of exhaustion amazes me, I can only be enraged at all these men who babbled and inundated with their nonsense and contradictions in the media and social networks. From the lying politician to the man of science playing the guru, I do not know which one has aroused my anger the most. "Thus, for Prof. MarwalaVice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, " if we want to reflect seriously on the post-Covid-19 period, to avoid the mistakes that have brought us to where we are now, to enter a truly new and modern era, we will have to use all our skills and not leave the half of humanity where the most competent are on the road witches"

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In an article in the American economic magazine Forbes of April 13, 2020, the question is asked: " What do the countries that are best managing the coronavirus crisis have in common? " Answer: " They're run by women"

Women on the Pandemic Manoeuvre

For example, Iceland, under the leadership of Katrín Jakobsdóttir, was proactive and proactive: out of a population of 365,000 people, 1,720 were infected. (3). To curb the epidemic on its territory, the country has chosen to offer free testing to everyone, whereas most countries only test patients with characteristic acute symptoms. The watchword of Katrín Jakobsdóttir's government was to anticipate.

Today, one in ten Icelanders have been tested. This is a world record of per capita screening that has made it possible to identify infected and contagious people, even if they had no symptoms (which is the case for 43 % of the people tested positive).

So Iceland did not need to close day-care centres and primary schools, although high schools, universities, swimming pools, sports halls, cinemas, bars and restaurants remained closed until 4 May.

Another example is New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern, whose qualities of solidarity, integrity, closeness and empathy led her to lower the remuneration of her ministers and her own of 20%, in solidarity with the victims of the pandemic. But above all, as soon as the first six cases were detected, the Prime Minister closed the borders and declared containment. She had clearly announced to her compatriots the why and how of the state of maximum alert in which she was placing the country. The integrity and determination of these decisions would have saved her country thousands of deaths: in mid-April New Zealand had only four Covid-19 deaths out of a population of 4.8 million.

As for Germany, led by Angela Merkel, it was her frankness and vigilance that, as of March 11, allowed her to announce without detours to her population that the epidemic was not to be taken lightly because the virus risked infecting 70% of the population: "... the virus is not to be taken lightly.This is a serious situation, so take it seriously....”
Mandatory follow-up of anyone who attended a rally or who may have been in contact with another infected person from the beginning of the crisis, combined with mass screening and quarantine of anyone detected, helped limit the spread of the virus, says Dr Reinhard Busse, a physician, health economist and director of the Faculty of Health Care Management at the Technical University of Berlin. at Radio-Canada.
The balance sheet is there: seven times lower than in France and twelve times lower than in Italy - less than 3,500 deaths and 128,000 people infected in mid-April.

In Norway it was the Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, who spoke directly to children on television and said: " I know it's scary and it's normal to be scared when things are rushed, like right now...« . The country of 5 million inhabitants is in semi-confinement with closed nurseries and schools, as well as borders, and anyone returning from a risk zone is quarantined at home with great firmness in case of non-compliance with the rules.

Other countries led by women, such as Denmark, Finland or Taiwan, mostly show a great sense of determinism, combined with presence and empathy.

Other women have also played a key role in this period of global pandemic: the German Defence Minister at the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. These two firsts mark an unprecedented "feminine" turning point at the head of Europe's highest authorities.

Six women for the Post Covid-19 Ideas Forum

The first six inspiring women to speak at the UNESCO Ideas Forum are : Katharine Hayhoe (Canada)She is a climatologist, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, Professor of Political Science and UN Champion of the Earth; Fadia Kiwan (Lebanon)Professor of Political Science, Director-General of the Arab Women's Organization, Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST); Sara Purca (Peru)a researcher at the Peruvian Institute of the Sea, and winner of the L'Oréal-UNESCO National Prize of Peru. "Por las Mujeres en la Ciencia." 2017 ; N'Dri Assie-Lumumba (Ivory Coast), Professor at Africana Studies and Research Centerfrom Cornell University, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the UNESCO-MOST Programme; Sakiko Fukuda-Parr (Japan), Professor of International Relations, Director of the Independent Group on Global Governance for Health at the University of Oslo, and Márcia Barbosa (Brazil), physicist, Director of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, 2013 laureate of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science.

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Further contributions from leading women and men from a wide variety of disciplines around the world will feed into the UNESCO Ideas Forum website in the coming months. 

In producing this series of reflections, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is fulfilling its mission as an open and inclusive laboratory of ideas, with the aim of contributing to strategic thinking on the Organization's programmes. UNESCO also expresses the hope that this initiative will inspire national policy-makers and make a positive contribution to global governance.

UNESCO Ideas Forum : https://fr.unesco.org/forum






(1) Women and their history, by Geneviève Fraise- Editions Gallimard, 1998
(2) Source : High Council for Equality between Women and Men
(3) Source :  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

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