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Minister Riisalo at the UN: There is a great risk that the pandemic will create a setback on what has been achieved so far in terms of gender equality and women's rights

„COVID-19 kriisi ajal suurenes üle maailma naistevastane vägivald. On suur oht, et pandeemia annab tagasilöögi seni soolise võrdõiguslikkuse ja naiste õiguste vallas saavutatule,“ ütles sotsiaalkaitseminister Signe Riisalo

Signe Riisalo, the Minister of Social Protection, will today participate in the annual high-level meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York and will give an Estonian state speech in the UN Great Hall on Friday, as well as speak at the high-level Round Table. This year, the main topics of the session will be women's participation in decision-making processes and violence against women. 

“Violence against women increased worldwide during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a great risk that the pandemic will create a setback on what has been achieved so far in terms of gender equality and women's rights,” said Signe Riisalo, the Minister of Social Protection. “Countries must make an effort to provide support and protection for women, for example through various services. Estonia has done well, because so far we have not stopped services for victims of violence against women during the crisis, and the extent of said services have not been reduced. In other countries this often has happened because all resources, both money and people, are dedicated to tackling the health crisis.” 

According to the Minister, it has been primarily women who have suffered by the crisis around the world, as the division of labour according to stereotypical gender roles is still widespread and therefore the women's sectors, such as service and tourism, have been hit hard during the crisis. Women are also predominantly employed in those sectors that are at the forefront, i.e. medicine, social work, care and education. “The ‘workload’ on women also increased in the emergency situation because, in addition to their everyday work they also needed to take care of their children, feed them and help them with their school work, because the schools and kindergartens were closed," Riisalo added. 

In the presentations about Estonia it is pointed out that the country has consciously dealt with the reduction of violence, improved the victim support system and the services provided, and is also preparing a new Victim Support Act. We are working on reducing gender segregation and mitigating the effects of gender stereotypes, also in cooperation with Praxis, the focus over the past two years has been on encouraging and supporting women to participate in politics.

Minister Signe Riisalo will participate today together with Liina Kanter, the Head of the Equality Policies Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, at an European Union ministerial meeting to discuss women's participation in leadership and the role of gender-sensitive policies in the context of COVID-19 recovery. 

The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place from 15th to 26th of March and for the first time, related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is in hybrid format – which means that the vast majority of events take place virtually and can be watched online. In addition to the official session, the member states, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations are organizing about 800 virtual side events. 

The schedule of the official events can be found here: https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw65-2021/official-meetings 

The discussions can be followed in real time: http://webtv.un.org/ (NB! The time difference is +6h) 

Side events: https://teamup.com/ksjgjdxx23dqs947md (NB! Time difference +6h)

The website of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women: https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw65-2021

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a subcommittee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and women's rights. The committee meets once a year in the spring. This is the biggest and the most high-level meeting on women's rights in a year, which is traditionally attended by a very large number of civil society representatives. Estonia is also currently a member of the Commission on the Status of Women. 

Yesterday, on the 15th of March, President Kersti Kaljulaid took part in a high-level discussion on ending violence against women. Eva-Maria Liimets, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will also speak on the 19th of March at a side event in support of Afghan women, and Nele Leosk, the Ambassador-at-Large for Digital Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will participate on the 18th of March at side event on digital topics. Kristiina Luht, the Head of Victim Support Policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, will participate on the 17th of March in an interactive dialogue on violence against women. At the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women the speech of the United States will be given by the Vice-President Kamala Harris on the 16th of March.