On Monday 27th July, The Helsinki Policy Forum’s Women Parliamentarian Network convened their second meeting to explore the economic implications of Covid-19 on women across communities in the Gulf-MENA region and Europe.

With a global recession looming, fears over women being confined to their homes without access to employment have inevitably become heightened. Past outbreaks, such as Ebola and the Zika virus, have demonstrated that following an economic downturn, men are given priority in the workplace. The OECD reveals “in the MENA region, there is a strong expectation that, in times of job loss, available job opportunities should go first to men”. As lockdown deepened the social and economic consequences there is growing fear that women will be marginalised in future economic processes, particularly in countries that have recently seen a surge in women joining the labour force.

Participants illuminated that the economic implications that affect women, also have a direct impact on families and communities and society as a whole. Digital inclusion is an area that was explored during the discussion as it can mitigate some of these existing economic disparities and can ensure that women have access to fundamental financial information and legal services. For instance, in the area of business ownership many women’s livelihoods are reliant on their small businesses. However due to digital shortcomings they may not have access to banks or vital services that can help the survival of their businesses, particularly during lockdown, consequently hindering their financial wellbeing. Education into the modernisation of technology is therefore critical to catalyse their skills and networks.

Thus, this meeting provided an opportunity to compare experiences in Europe and the Gulf-MENA region and share insights on common challenges. This fruitful discussion marked the first in a series of meetings catered to unpacking the complexities of post-Covid-19 economic recovery and developing practical recommendations with women at the forefront that can be harnessed at the national level.