Imagining a Post-COVID-19 City with Women’s Human Rights

This year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum hosted a spectrum of discussions to share research findings, call on plans of action for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the impact of COVID-19 on these programs. One memorable session was titled “Imagine a Post-COVID-19 City with Women’s Human Rights” and was hosted by the International Alliance of Women, Feminist and Women’s Movement Action Plan, NGO CSW/NY, Habitat, and UN Women. To begin the event the moderator, Soon-Young Yoon, used an interactive poll feature on Zoom to get an idea of what the room was most eager to discuss. This quick poll confirmed the interconnectedness of global injustice and inequality.

Question: “What do you think is most vital to accomplish rebuilding a post-COVID-19 city with women’s human rights?” 

Audience Answers: 

  • Ensure Social Protection for All – 66%
  • Prioritize Universal Health Coverage – 22%
  • Climate Justice – 12% 

Khara Jabola-Carolus, the Executive Director of Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, gave a notable presentation with the key point that we must “decouple the idea of stability, coverage, and security to a wage.” Civilians should not be dependent on employment to secure healthcare, expensive feminine care products, nutrition, and quality education. We must harness caregiving, and defund military and luxury as harmful industries. Khara also shared some progress that Hawaii has made on the local level, as Maui County recently passed legislation on feminist restructuring. Other speakers included Vera Baboun, a Palestinian politician and the first female mayor of Bethlehem. Baboun spoke of the political voice of women, the privilege in networking, and the importance of creating accessible networks to empower more women worldwide.

Another key speaker was Clara Mavogo, the first female mayor of Monrovia, Liberia, during the Ebola outbreak in 2013-2016. She spoke about the importance of effective communication during a crisis. The denial of crisis can make it so much worse, and yet world leaders in 2020 continue to deny the severity of COVID-19. In Liberia, low literacy rates make the diffusion of information much more difficult, and the official health reports on the virus will often come in English, or another language that must be translated before distribution. The key takeaway from Mavogo’s experience with the Ebola crisis was to mobilize work with people at the very local level, vote women into office, and communicate effectively. 

So, what does a post-COVID-19 city with women’s human rights look like? It offers free feminine care products, funds women’s centers and clinics, and covers women’s healthcare. More women are voted into positions of power and social protection is ensured for all. As Maimunah Mohd Sarif, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program, said in the session’s opening video, “a city planned for women is a city planned for all.”

Marietta La Barbera is an AmeriCorps NAIP Member at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, the Chief Operating Officer of Urban Refuge, and a UNA-USA Emerging Leaders Fellow.