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Joint declaration of the OAS General Secretariat and the Human Rights Coalition of Women of the Americas

  October 3, 2022

Ever since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the governments of the Americas have had to adopt measures to counteract the spread of the virus in their territories. Mandatory confinement and quarantines, along with other measures, disrupted people’s daily lives and economic, social, and cultural life to an extent that varied from one segment of the population to another. In the midst of those restrictions, new light was cast on that other pandemic, namely, the vulnerability of women and girls.

According to the Inter-American Commission of Women of the OAS, the emergency triggered by COVID-19 had specific impacts on women and exacerbated existing gender-based inequalities and violence, in and outside homes, in hospitals and health care centers, in the workplace, and in politics.

The havoc wreaked by the pandemic underscores the need for equal participation of women in decision-making and a gender perspective as core features of policies for mitigating and recovering from multiple crises. Recent pandemics (Ebola, Zika, SARS) taught us that including women’s needs in efforts to address the emergency is no minor matter. On the contrary, failure to embrace a gender perspective will deepen inequalities with long-term impacts that it will be difficult to revert.

In this context, and particularly in connection with the fifty-second regular session of the General Assembly, we call upon the member states of the OAS to take steps in the post-COVID-19 era to restore women’s human rights and guarantee the conditions needed to ensure the exercise of those rights without discrimination, in all spheres, and for all women. It is vital that the OAS bolster an approach to women’s human rights from an intersectional perspective, in both its analysis and the decisions it takes; that it strengthen its forums for the defense of those rights, such as the CIM; and that it reinforces commitments to recover and preserve guarantees for accessing all human rights and equity in each State of the Americas.

We issue a call for the work of the fifty-second regular session of the General Assembly of the OAS to incorporate items on the women’s agenda, especially the inclusion of women in decision-making, the strengthening of their economic and reproductive autonomy by eliminating the structural barrier created by unpaid caregiving, the sexual division of labor, and the redefinition of security, based on women’s real circumstances and their resilience for confronting crises and conflicts still pending in the region. All of which can be done by mainstreaming a gender perspective at every level of public service.

Fighting the pandemic not only means overcoming historic inequalities. It also requires us to forge a resilient world in everyone’s interest, in which women can lead recovery. COVID-19 poses not just a challenge for health systems throughout the world. It is also testing our shared human values. Gender equality and the rights of women in all their diversity are essential for ensuring that together we can overcome this pandemic, achieve swift recovery, and forge a better future for all of us, women and men.

The Human Rights Coalition of Women of the Americas, as a women’s organization participating in networks throughout the region, supports the work of the General Secretariat of the OAS to restore women’s rights in the post-pandemic era and is attending the upcoming OAS General Assembly in order to engage in dialogue with the delegations aimed at developing ways to work together on resolutions and declarations in this field.

Reference: E-058/22