Gender and Human Rights

Photo by: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)


The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women is derailing decades of progress on gender equality

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, women have carried much of the unpaid emotional and domestic burden of caring for their families and communities, often simultaneously holding down paid jobs, many on reduced hours or salaries.

Women have also been disproportionately affected by job losses, particularly women of color and ethnic minorities. Worldwide, women lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020 alone, resulting in an estimated US$800 billion loss of income.

Mirroring these trends, women in Aotearoa New Zealand faced greater economic, social and health challenges than men. In 2020, women made up 90% of pandemic-related redundancies. In 2021, many more women were working in “precarious” jobs. W?hine M?ori and Pacific women, already facing greater inequalities, have been even harder hit by job losses.

During this time, rates of domestic violence against women and girls surged in New Zealand and around the world, prompting some to refer to a “double pandemic” or “shadow pandemic”. Women’s physical and mental health has been heavily affected for both frontline workers and in the home.

As ongoing research by a cross-cultural team of feminist scholars has been documenting, New Zealand women have found different ways to cope through the various stages of the pandemic. But with the pandemic exacerbating gender inequalities in most areas of life, the fear is that decades of (albeit uneven) momentum towards gender equity is being lost.

Recovery designed for women

While some governments have taken steps to address women’s well-being during the pandemic, such as introducing shorter or flexible work hours, they remain the minority.

Organisations such as the United Nations and the OECD have identified the need to develop better support for women within pandemic recovery programmes. And some countries have advocated more progressive strategies, including prioritising local feminist and Indigenous knowledge. But the uptake of such initiatives has been minimal at best.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the 2021 Wellbeing Budget sought to “support into employment those most affected by COVID-19, including women”. But the focus on male-dominated industries (such as construction and roading), and lack of initiatives aimed at women as primary carers, meant this was largely a missed opportunity.

While this general lack of gender-responsive policy has been troubling, women have been far from passive in their own responses, both individually and collectively.

As the stories of women from diverse backgrounds in Aotearoa New Zealand have shown in our own and others’ research, many have turned to their own cultures, social networks and religions to help them through the pandemic. Others have used sport and exercise, nature and digital technology to build a sense of belonging and support during difficult times

Such strategies have helped them manage unprecedented levels of stress in their own lives, and the lives of those around them. Women have been active and creative in the ways they’ve found to care for themselves and others.

Yet these everyday acts of care by women for their families and communities are rarely seen, valued or acknowledged.

Questioning roles and expectations

As the pandemic continues, women everywhere are suffering the “hidden costs of caregiving”. In Aotearoa New Zealand, as elsewhere, new COVID variants have seen them even busier caring for sick family members – often while unwell themselves.

The effect has been to rethink priorities, who and what is most important, and to question the expectations shaping their lives.

Some of the women in our studies have taken bold steps – starting a new business, moving town, reorganising work-life balance, putting their own health first. Others have simply acknowledged their own vulnerability and need for community. As two of the women we interviewed said:

I think for me it’s been more of a reaffirmation that what I am doing is good enough […] Like I don’t need to be all of these things. We put so much pressure on ourselves […] we spread ourselves too thin […] trying to be a whole bunch of other people’s ideas of being the best person.

You need to be real about how you are feeling and a little bit vulnerable, not hide things or bottle things up or try to be everything to everybody. I learned the power of being vulnerable, of people and community, and the importance of connection and the importance of kindness and being okay with whatever you’ve got in your mind.

Learning from women’s experiences

The stress and mounting fatigue characteristic of life during COVID-19 are undoubtedly prompting many women in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas to ask questions about the gendered economic and social systems that may no longer be working for them, and the infrastructures that are failing to support them.

Some are turning away from their busy working lives, opting instead to find a slower pace, to live more sustainably, and to give back to their communities in a range of ways.

Some even refer to the gendered effects of the pandemic economy as the “great she-cession”. But it’s clear we need to better understand the social, economic and cultural conditions prompting these changes.

What we can say, however, is that genuinely gender-responsive policies are urgently needed. The often used mantra of “building back better” must prioritise the knowledge of local women in all their diversity, and there is much we can learn by listening to women’s everyday experiences of the pandemic.

Not doing so risks decades of gender equity work slipping away.


By    :               Holly Thorpe (Professor in Sociology of Sport and Physical Culture, University of Waikato)

                        Allison Jeffrey (Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Alberta)

                        Simone Fullagar  (Professor, Gender Equity in Sport, Griffith University)


Date   :            April 21, 2022

Source:           The Conversation


The fight for gender equality

Celebrating Women’s History Month, here are seven battles sportswomen have been fighting, against gender-based discrimination in sport.

The inherent masculine nature of sport often makes gender-based discrimination a common feature in it. Women’s participation in sports was restricted for a long time, and even today, women face multiple barriers to participation. Indeed, women are still struggling to compete on an equal playing field. 

Nevertheless, women in sport have been persistent in questioning the gender-based disparities and inequalities. Here are some of the battles that women in sport have been fighting, to challenge the sexism within sport. 

The fight for equal pay

Dipika Pallikal, one of India’s top-ranked squash players, refused to compete in four consecutive national championships, starting in 2012, due to the pay disparity between male and female players. Pallikal made a comeback only after prize money was equalised by the organisers of the championship. She received flak from many for abandoning the championship for four years, as it was not seen in sync with the ‘sportsmanship spirit’. The criticism did not stop Pallikal from demanding equal pay and she was successful in bringing change for women in squash. 

Many other sportswomen around the world have been lobbying for equal pay. The recent landmark settlement between the US National Women’s Soccer Team, against the US Soccer Federation, is a historic win for women’s sport and will pave the way for many other women demanding their right to equal pay. 

The fight for maternity benefits

Maternity benefits are rarely provided to female athletes. This causes them to lose out on sponsorship and brand deals, often shortening their careers. The lack of maternity leave policies in sport federations has forced many sportswomen to choose between their careers and motherhood.

In January 2022, after negotiating new contracts, women footballers across 24 clubs in England were granted maternity benefits. This move, which was approved by the Professional Football Association (PFA), is an example of sportswomen negotiating equal labour rights in their professions. 

This move is part of a growing wave of sportswomen negotiating maternity benefits for themselves and other female athletes. In 2020, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced a new collective bargaining agreement, which increased salaries and provided fully paid maternity leave. In the same year, FIFA also approved a 14-week maternity leave for all players and declared that all football clubs would be obligated to integrate the players after their pregnancy. 

The fight against gender testing

Sport federations often use sex testing as a tool to control which women can participate; using questionable scientific evidence as their basis, federations claim that high levels of testosterone give some women a competitive advantage. This is a highly contested claim which excludes some women from participating, often leaving them with no choice but to suppress their naturally occurring hormones, which can have a long-term impact on their bodies. Further, these rules have often been used disproportionately against women of colour, limiting their access to competitive sport. 

Caster Semanya, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from South Africa, has been fighting a battle against World Athletics since 2019. In 2018, World Athletics banned Semanya from competing in races between 400 and 1600 metres, due to her naturally high levels of testosterone. They ruled that she could only participate if she medically suppresses her testosterone or undergoes surgery.

Since then, Semanya has legally challenged World Athletics’ discriminatory rules in three different courts. Though she has lost the appeals made to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court in 2019 and 2020, she has not given up her fight. In February 2021, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. Despite her persistent efforts, Semanya was not allowed to participate in the 800 metre race at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021. 

Semenya is not alone in this battle. Dutee Chand, who has also faced the brunt of these rules, has been supportive of Semenya and Olympic champion and American gymnast Simone Biles has also been a vocal supporter. However, Semenya has commented on the lack of support from other female athletes and how she has had to often deal with rude comments from her competitors. 

The fight for participation 

When Bobbi Gibb decided to run the Boston Marathon in 1966, it was an all-male event, with women not allowed to participate. Indeed, at the time, women were not allowed to participate in any running events over 1.5 miles, due to the misperception that women were not physically able to run long distances. Despite being denied entry to the marathon, Gibb did not give up - she hid in the bushes and disguised herself, as she mustered the courage to break the rules and complete the marathon, stunning and impressing the audience. She was eventually disqualified from the race because she was a woman.

 A year later, in 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially participate in the Boston Marathon - in her registration form, she signed using her initials, and it was not apparent that she was a woman. However, the race co-director Jack Semple, was furious at her participation, and he disrupted the race as he attempted to remove her bib. Unperturbed, she persevered and completed the race. 

It still took five more years for the Boston Marathon to officially allow women to participate in the event - in 1972, eight women participated in the Marathon, and Nina Kuscsik became the first female champion of the event. By 2015, the number of female participants at the Boston Marathon had grown to 14,000.

Gibb and Switzer were pioneers for women’s participation in long distance running. Switzer also played a pivotal role in getting the women’s marathon into the Olympic Games, and the first-ever women’s marathon at the Olympics was held at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. 

The fight against gender roles

Hassiba Boulmerka is a former athlete from Algeria, who became a role-model for many female athletes in Africa. She began to run at the age of 10, later specialising in the 800 and 1500 metre races. Her breakthrough achievement came in 1991, when she became the first African woman to have won a World Athletics title. 

Her journey, however, was not easy. Boulmerka was often targeted by radical religious groups for showing too much skin while competing. Due to the constant threats she received, including threats to her life, she was forced to move to  Berlin in 1992. In defiance of these threats, she continued to run, and won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Boulmerka’s fearless battle against restrictive gender norms and stereotypes was a step forward for women in sports, especially African women. 

The fight against mandated uniforms

During the 2021 European Beach Handball Championship held in Bulgaria, the Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball Team protested against the uniform mandated by the European Handball Federation. The team wore shorts, as opposed to bikini bottoms, the uniform fixed by the federation. The team’s refusal to abide by the clothing rules was not received well by the federation, and they were fined $1500 for the offence. However, the Norwegian Handball Federation backed the team and supported their stance on the mandated dress code. 

It has been a long fight against mandated uniforms for women in sport, which are often rooted in sexism. Often, uniforms can be a reason which limits the participation of women and girls in sports. This is why it is important for sports federations and organisations to ensure that all women and girls are able to participate and compete in sport in those clothes which make them feel comfortable. 

In this fight against mandated uniforms, it is important to recognise those women that have fought for their right to wear the hijab while participating in sports. The gains made in this battle are recent - in 2016, Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first American Muslim to compete at an Olympics while wearing a hijab, and the FIFA ban against headscarves was only lifted in 20143. 

Women are starting to take control of the narratives on their bodies and comfort. These recent wins are indicative of a growing movement towards increasing women’s comfort (and hence participation) in sport. 

The fight against sexual harassment

In November 2021, Peng Shui, a Chinese tennis player, accused China’s former vice-sexually harassing her. The Chinese media, however, suppressed the news and Shui disappeared from public view soon after sharing her story. Shui is considered a pioneer in women’s sport for speaking out against sexual harassment, especially against a powerful man. 

Shui is not alone in this fight against sexual harassment. Perhaps one of the most visible cases of sexual harassment against female athletes came in 2016, when over 250 American female gymnasts, including Olympians McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles, accused US Gymanstics’ doctor Larry Nasser of sexually abusing them. 

For sport to be a safe space for women, it is important that strict measures are taken against sexual harassment, to ensure that they are protected. Without such safeguarding, women will not be able to participate in sport freely. 

The battles ahead

These are only a few of the battles against gender-based inequalities that female athletes have had to fight. Though there have been significant moves towards equality, many battles lie ahead. 

This is also not an exhaustive list of all the brave sportswomen who have been fighting for equality. In this long journey towards gender-based equality, no small group of women are responsible for the changes that we have witnessed - indeed, the wins are the culmination of the hard work of many changemakers who have challenged misogyny in sports. And today, with many more female athletes speaking up against discrmination and for gender equality, the tides are certainly changing in sport.


By   :       Isha Saxena & Tariqa Tandon

Date :     March 22, 2022



Does gender matter? The association between different digital media activities and adolescent well-being



Previous research on the relationship between social media use and well-being in adolescents has yielded inconsistent results. We addressed this issue by examining the association between various digital media activities, including a new and differentiated measure of social media use, and well-being (internalizing symptoms) in adolescent boys and girls.


The sample was drawn from the four cross-sectional surveys from the Öckerö project (2016–2019) in eight municipalities in southern Sweden, consisting of 3957 adolescents in year 7 of compulsory education, aged 12–13. We measured the following digital media activities: playing games and three different activities of social media use (chatting, online sociability, and self-presentation). Our outcome measure was internalizing symptoms. Hypotheses were tested with linear regression analysis.


Social media use and playing games were positively associated with internalizing symptoms. The effect of social media use was conditional on gender, indicating that social media use was only associated with internalizing symptoms for girls. Of the social media activities, only chatting and self-presentation (posting information about themselves) were positively associated with internalizing symptoms. Self-presentation was associated with internalizing symptoms only for girls.


Our study shows the importance of research going beyond studying the time spent on social media to examine how different kinds of social media activities are associated with well-being. Consistent with research in psychology, our results suggest that young girls posting information about themselves (i.e. self-presentation) might be especially vulnerable to display internalizing symptoms.


By   :         Robert Svensson, Björn Johnson & Andreas Olsson 

Date:        February 10, 2022

Source:    BMC Public Health

Svensson, R., Johnson, B. & Olsson, A. Does gender matter? The association between different digital media activities and adolescent well-being. BMC Public Health 22, 273 (2022).


Without data, Indonesia's gender equality promise falters

Missing gender data means Indonesia's development programmes are poorly targeted, hindering gender mainstreaming goals enacted 22 years ago.

Indonesia, a strongly patriarchal society, is trying to close the gender gap. Progress has been slow.

Indonesia’s gender inequality index is among the highest of the ASEAN countries, according to the United Nations. Only Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar rank lower. Indonesia is 85th out of 149 countries in the global gender gap rankings. 

Despite having the same level of education, Indonesian women and men still experience significant wage differences, with women earning 59.3 percent of what their male counterparts with the same level of schooling bring home.

Many Indonesian women choose jobs related to domestic work as caregivers, nurses, and teachers. They also tend to work in the informal sector, missing out on the empowerment that formal work offers. The wage gap is not just large in rural areas. Data for urban areas shows the average salary of female workers is IDR2,722,531 (US$190), while men get an average wage of IDR 3,503,050 (US$244).

Indonesia’s government is not ignoring the issue — it ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women some 22 years ago. However, it lacks the gender-differentiated data and information to thoroughly assess the situation and develop appropriate, evidence-based responses and policies.

Indonesia has adopted the idea of gender mainstreaming — bringing gender perspectives and the goal of gender equality to all activities — policy development, research, advocacy, dialogue, legislation, resource allocation, as well as the planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects. But the promise is not reflected in government budgeting. 

Despite a strategy launched in 2013 to adopt gender-responsive budgeting, Indonesia does not state exact figures regarding the nominal financing for gender-responsive programs. It could learn from the Philippines. Its government requires all national agencies to set aside 5 percent of their allocation of funds for gender and development. In 1998, this was expanded so that both local and national government agencies could develop gender-responsive planning and budgeting capabilities.

Indonesia’s progress toward gender equality also remains slow because gender mainstreaming is largely just aligned with governments or institutions focused on women’s empowerment affairs. This simply reinforces the outdated understanding that gender issues are not mainstream and do not cut across all sectors.

There is also a lack of skilled people in government with an understanding of gender issues and the need for gender-disaggregated data.

Ideally, several years’ of data would be available for policymakers to allow them to track changes and take corrective action. In reality a lack of sex-disaggregated data has resulted in an incomplete picture of women’s and men’s lives — and the gaps that persist between them. 

Globally, close to 80 percent of countries regularly produce sex-disaggregated statistics on mortality, labor force participation, and education and training. But less than one-third of countries disaggregate statistics by sex on informal employment, entrepreneurship (ownership and management of a firm or business) and unpaid work, or collect data about violence against women.

More and better data is required to contribute to a meaningful policy dialogue on gender equality and provide a solid evidence base for development policy. Disaggregated data can be hard to come by in some regions of Indonesia. Data is available only in certain fields that are relatively easy to measure such as education, health and employment.

As an example of data on the poor, some data sources list the number of poor women and men, but give no clear age division. But poverty impacts children, adults and the elderly in different ways. As a result, many programmes are not well targeted because they do not take into account the needs of the different recipients of poverty reduction programs. 

Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency is responsible for disaggregated data, most of which is quantitative and general in nature. Getting specific and qualitative data is costly. 

This unintegrated data collection is a problem for many institutions, considering not all government institutions in the regions have a budget for data collection. 

The best hope for change is in the realm of Indonesia’s development planning. Gender equality can contribute to economic growth, and programmes making it into Indonesia’s development planning are assigned funding. Scrutiny of gender-responsive programs within this envelope could help improve planning and funding in future budgets.


Antik Bintari is a researcher and lecturer at the Gender and Children Research Centre at Indonesia’s Universitas Padjadjaran. Her works focuses on politics, governance, gender and child issues.


By   :            Antik Bintari

Date:           March 7, 2022



Differences in the spatial landscape of urban mobility: Gender and socioeconomic perspectives


Many of our routines and activities are linked to our ability to move; be it commuting to work, shopping for groceries, or meeting friends. Yet, factors that limit the individuals’ ability to fully realise their mobility needs will ultimately affect the opportunities they can have access to (e.g. cultural activities, professional interactions). One important aspect frequently overlooked in human mobility studies is how gender-centred issues can amplify other sources of mobility disadvantages (e.g. socioeconomic inequalities), unevenly affecting the pool of opportunities men and women have access to. In this work, we leverage on a combination of computational, statistical, and information-theoretical approaches to investigate the existence of systematic discrepancies in the mobility diversity (i.e. the diversity of travel destinations) of (1) men and women from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and (2) work and non-work travels. Our analysis is based on datasets containing multiple instances of large-scale, official, travel surveys carried out in three major metropolitan areas in South America: Medellín and Bogotá in Colombia, and São Paulo in Brazil. Our results indicate the presence of general discrepancies in the urban mobility diversities related to the gender and socioeconomic characteristics of the individuals. Lastly, this paper sheds new light on the possible origins of gender-level human mobility inequalities, contributing to the general understanding of disaggregated patterns in human mobility.


By   :      Mariana Macedo, Laura Lotero, Alessio Cardillo, Ronaldo Menezes &Hugo Barbosa 

Date:     March 2, 2022

Source:  PLOS ONE