The results of a rapid gender assessment (RGA) on the impacts of COVID-19 in Colombia are helping justify economic support programmes that prioritize women, shape a new national care policy, and increase the use of non-official statistics for policymaking.
Colombia’s rapid gender assessment was jointly designed and implemented by the Gender Affairs Observatory of the Presidential Council for Women’s Equity (CPEM) and UN Women, with funding from its Women Count programme. The survey was administered via phone and mobile interviews from 1–15 November 2020, receiving 1,647 responses. Findings were shared at a regional workshop on 1 March and a comparative regional report including results from Chile and Mexico was published in May.
“This experience helped us show how an Observatory can generate a gender-sensitive instrument in a context as adverse as a pandemic. It’s a best practice!,” says César Pinzón-Medina, Director of CPEM’s Gender Affairs Observatory, which was launched in March 2020. “We were even able to see some comparisons with other countries in the region that had similar surveys and results. This has placed us at another level.”
He says the RGA allowed decision-makers to obtain information that nobody else was capturing. The preliminary results were shared in February with Colombia’s National Department for Planning (DNP), which coordinates all public policies, and he says a number of government programmes have been informed by these findings.
The RGA found that most Colombians reported seeing decreased income amid the pandemic, and women fared worse than men (76 versus 72%, respectively).
Pinzón-Medina points to the Formal Employment Support Programme – a 40% subsidy for men’s wages and 50% subsidy for women’s – which was created based on the assumption that women would be more affected by the economic crisis. He says the RGA results reaffirmed the Ministry’s request to extend this differential measure until June 2021 and will be used to justify the need to cement it in a possible financing law.
The RGA also showed that more than half of those surveyed had lost their job or business to the pandemic, but women were more affected than men (56 versus 48%, respectively).
Pinzón-Medina says such findings helped justify Colombia’s Public Employment Service – which has placed some 300,000 women in formal employment during the pandemic – and underlined the need to support women’s entrepreneurship and the formalization of their work.
Moreover, with the approval of an Entrepreneurship Law in November 2020, a Fund for Women’s Entrepreneurship was ratified, which must follow the recommendations of CPEM and the Vice Presidency to ensure that resources reach women efficiently. The Entrepreneurship Law also obliges State entities to give additional points to women-led businesses in public contracting processes. Pinzón-Medina says the RGA data contributed to structuring the fund and establishing certain rules and regulations, such as priority funding for projects to reach rural women.
Finally, a new Royalties Law adopted in September 2020 established that governmental planning exercises should prioritize gender-sensitive investments and projects as well as public policies favouring women’s equity. Although the RGA results were not used directly for drafting this Law, Pinzón-Medina says they have been crucial for the design of a “model project” being designed by CPEM and the DNP with technical support from UN Women. It aims to better match project proposals to public funding sources, thus reducing their approval time.
Shaping a national care policy
According to UN Women Colombia’s Women Count Project Coordinator, Rolando Crespo, the RGA data, coupled with preliminary data from the third National Time-Use survey published by Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) in March, have also helped close information gaps about unpaid care and domestic work.
The RGA revealed that although both sexes reported increasing the time they spend on care during the lockdown, women were more likely than men to increase their time, with at least an 8% gender gap on all tasks – from caring for children, to cooking and cleaning, helping children with homework, and caring for elderly or sick, or supporting people with disabilities within the household.
Crespo says such data are helping to shape Colombia’s national care policy, which has been in the works for the past four years. “These data have contributed evidence on the effects of the pandemic on the unpaid care work primarily done by women – whether directly, indirectly or passively – expanding the inputs into the final phases of the national care policy. It’s a big achievement to have all of this information integrated within a policy!” says Crespo.
At the regional launch of the RGA results, DANE Director Juan Daniel Oviedo said the RGA data were complementary and consistent with other official DANE statistics on women’s employment and care work, characterizing it as a “motivating opportunity” to use non-official sources: “Although the sample designs are different, we can begin to apply a division of work responsibilities [in statistical production], insisting on some of our own dimensions and on the UN Women telephone survey results in others.”
Oviedo added that such studies enrich the interdisciplinary dialogue that must take place to make intersectionalities visible and to shape public policies in favour of gender equality.
Between May and July UN Women Colombia conducted a second RGA focused on the situation of people with disabilities, to inform the design of a joint programme (between UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF) that will be presented to the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UNPRPD MPTF) later this year. The programme will be implemented in 2022.
“Given that we had such a good experience with the RGA on COVID-19, the UN team allowed us to take advantage of this methodology,” says Crespo.
Jen Ross is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of UN experience, including with UN-ECLAC, OHCHR and UN Women.