BEIJING, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Engaging women as part of the solution to the COVID-19 response and recovery can offer a new perspective for the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in their fight against the coronavirus disease, a United Nations (UN) official has said.
"We have clearly seen how, as with all disasters, the pandemic has disproportionately hurt women and girls," said Mohammad Naciri, UN Women regional director for Asia and the Pacific, in an article titled "Putting women and girls at the heart of COVID-19 response and recovery in ASEAN: Turning challenges into opportunities," released to Xinhua on Wednesday.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is testing ASEAN's collective resolve, Naciri said, "women face greater risks of infection because they make up the majority of healthcare workers -- doctors, nurses, midwives, community health workers and pharmacists -- who are on the front line caring for people who have been infected."
He also said women and girls face greater risks of violence as countries have imposed at-home isolation and quarantines to try to stem the spread of the virus.
"It is also clear that women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic's social and economic impacts," he added.
In the ASEAN region, female workers are overrepresented in the hardest-hit sectors, such as manufacturing, textile and garments, hospitality and tourism, care and domestic work, Naciri said.
Tackling the COVID-19 crisis with "a whole-of-society approach that places gender equality at the center of disaster preparedness and response" can fulfil the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 of caring societies, he said.
ASEAN can strengthen disaster response and recovery "by empowering women to join in and lead emergency efforts and using gender data to highlight women's particular vulnerabilities and needs during disasters, such as the coronavirus pandemic," the UN Women regional leader suggested.
Naciri urged ASEAN leaders to take concrete steps to formulate more inclusive solutions.
"These include using gender analysis to better understand the impact of the pandemic and inform the response, and actively engaging women's organizations in disaster management and decision-making," he said, adding that ensuring that economic stimulus packages target women and focus on jobs and social investment will be critical for a strong recovery.
"Placing women and girls at the heart of response and recovery can turn the current crisis into an opportunity to create a more resilient ASEAN Community that leaves no one behind," he added.