Women at the Frontline of COVID-19: Can Gender Mainstreaming in Free Trade Agreements Help?

Mexico - 1 September 2020

Trade topics: Gender and Trade

Health pandemics affect women and men differently, and they can make the existing gender inequalities much worse. COVID-19 is one such pandemic, which can have substantial gendered implications both during and in the post-pandemic world. Its economic and social consequences could deepen the existing gender inequalities and roll back the limited gains made in respect of women empowerment in the past few decades. The impending global recession, multiple trade restrictions, economic lockdown and social distancing measures can expose vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which in turn could have a profound impact on women’s participation in trade and commerce. The article outlines five main reasons that explain why this health pandemic has put women employees, entrepreneurs and consumers at the frontline of the struggle. It then explores how free trade agreements can contribute in repairing the harm in the post-pandemic world. In doing so, the author sheds light on various ways in which the existing trade agreements embrace gender equality considerations and how they can be better prepared to help minimize the pandemic-inflicted economic loss to women.