On 8 March, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) celebrates International Women’s Day through interviews with women that play a central role in our global quest to deliver excellence in social security. The focus of the interviews is on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality and social security, in line with UN Women’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
Interview with Milka Mungunda
Executive Officer at the Social Security Commission (SSC) of Namibia and
How do you see the state of gender equality in social security today?
Social security is meant to cater for social protection and a social safety net for everybody. However, as women, who carry the burden of the family and society, more emphasis and benefits should be tailor-made to benefit women. In some countries, the issue of maternity benefits, and compassionate leave for various reasons affecting women in the workplace need more tailor-made attention and solutions.
What has been the specific impact of COVID-19 on the social and economic situation of women?
COVID-19 affected the whole world like a thief in the night. Consequently, women in particular were adversely affected. Specific impacts are on pregnant women, who are vulnerable throughout the entire process of pregnancy, women who are breastfeeding, as they are likely to infect their children, and women in the informal economy who are vulnerable by virtue of the proximity to their clients. Most street vendors and traders in the informal economy are women, and with the advent of COVID-19 many had to close down their business, thus affecting not only their livelihoods, but also that of their families and children.
Have social security measures put in place during COVID-19 been able to reduce the pandemic’s negative impact on women?
Not enough time and preparation was possible to prepare for the pandemic. Although measures were put in place to reduce and address the negative impact of COVID-19, especially on women, more needs to be done. However, the pandemic has also given an opportunity to highlight our shortcomings and where to improve in similar situations in future.
What is your message to women on this day?
As women, our challenges are multifaceted. However, over centuries we have proven that we have strong resistance and resilience to bounce back after adversity. The COVID-19 pandemic has also strengthened our resilience. I therefore have no doubt that as women, our inner strength always carry us through. My appeal to women is to be part of the social security changes and social protection reforms to improve our own situation for future generations.