This important and insightful discussion was moderated by Ms. Eleonora Neri, iSCAN team member who opened the virtual podium by introducing Ms. Palac as “an anthropologist and citizen of the world with a strong sense of duty towards protecting universality of human rights, with special focus on underrepresented communities, women and youth worldwide.”
The discussion was built around the current situation with regards to zero discrimination affairs, with special reference to the ensuring women’s equal representation and efforts pertaining to their legal representation and other challenges faced now or to be faced in the immediate future by the international community on this topic.
Ms. Palac emphasized that COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable group, women and girls worldwide:
“COVID-19 shed light on the extreme high rates of gender inequality worldwide and among the hidden costs of the COVID-19 pandemic is an alarming rise in domestic violence and intimate partner violence. Globally, an estimated 243 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner in 2020 during the first corona virus lockdown.”
Considering the war in Ukraine and ICDO’s work on the ground in the past 40 days, ICDO President highlighted the vulnerability of women refugees that ICDO safely welcomed and accommodated in Austria and other countries within the EU. She emphasized the importance of the latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) indicating that around ninety percent of the over 3.6 million refugees from Ukraine are women and children, who are at the risk of being targeted by criminal networks. “Crisis in Ukraine increases vulnerabilities, human trafficking, as well as opportunities to exploit Ukrainian women refugees.”, she said, presenting numerous examples of Ukrainian women accommodated by ICDO who, besides war, fled abusive relationships.
Except refugees and asylum seekers, Ms. Palac mentioned indigenous women, invisible victims of femicide and domestic violence in Mexico and other countries, highlighting they are completely absent from discussion about above mentioned challenges.
“During the first phase of our project in Mexico, ICDO team received testimonies from indigenous Maya women who are victims of domestic violence. Considering the fact that indigenous women live in rural areas and do not have access to medical care, therapy, or other resources, and considering the number of unreported incidents, ICDO opened “ICDO’s Development Hub” in April 2021.”, said Ms. Palac.
The Hub will empower and support indigenous Maya women who need legal and psychosocial help and directly fight increasing rates of domestic violence and poverty.
A moderator, Ms. Neri, mentioned education as a powerful tool in fighting challenges women and girls are facing worldwide, stating that education can help close the gender gap. Ms. Palac agreed, adding that school closures during the spread of COVID-19 that caused unprecedented disruption for nearly 1.6 billion learners across the globe pose an immediate and long-term threat to gender equality, with gender-specific effects on health, well-being and protection.
“COVID-19 shed light on inequalities, with many women working in the informal sector having been thrown into financial insecurity, without regular income or effective social safety nets.”, added Ms. Palac.
A moderator opened a podium for discussion for many young people who attended the event. Except for the interchange of many brilliant ideas and examples they are familiar with, the main question was what solutions can be presented and what all of us can do in order to contribute to gender equality.
Ms. Palac said that she believes the need for cross-sector collaboration and empowerment are the most powerful weapons in fighting gender inequality. “Cross-sector collaboration has always been a pillar of ICDO’s work and it showed to be very successful. I believe it is a vital instrument in overcoming a global crisis such as COVID-19, as solutions can be brought by different stakeholders. Can you imagine what impact partnerships between different stakeholders (f.e. the state, private sectors, health organizations, NGOs and international organizations) would make in terms of gender equality? Everyone has a role to play and everyone has part of the solution. ”, said ICDO President.
After she highlighted benefits of cross-sector collaboration through examples of ICDO’s work on the ground, Ms. Palac said that it is crucial and urgent to empower marginalized and underrepresented women worldwide.
“You also have part of the solution, you can also be active changemakers. Skip one month of Netflix or Spotify subscription and donate to some organization working locally and on the field. You can’t imagine what change this can make.”, said ICDO Project and Media Communications Manager Isidora Colic.