Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18 and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries underwent female genital mutilation (FGM).
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, it is one of the essential foundations for building a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Some progress has been made in recent decades: more girls are in school, fewer girls are being forced into early marriage; more women are in parliaments and leadership positions; and laws are being reformed to promote gender equality.
Despite these achievements, many challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms remain pervasive, women continue to be under-represented at all levels of political leadership, and 1 in 5 women and girls aged 15-49 say they have experienced sexual or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner in a 12-month period.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse the few gains that have been made in gender equality and women's rights. The coronavirus outbreak exacerbates existing inequalities for women and girls globally - from health and economics to security and social protection.
Women play a disproportionate role in the response to the virus, including as frontline health workers and home-based caregivers. Women's unpaid care work has increased significantly as a result of school closures and the increased needs of the elderly. Women are also more affected by the economic effects of COVID-19 as they work disproportionately in insecure labour markets. Nearly 60% of women work in the informal economy, further exposing them to poverty.
The pandemic has also led to a sharp increase in violence against women and girls. With confinement measures in place, many women find themselves trapped at home with their abusers, with difficulty accessing services that are being cut back and restricted. New data show that since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls (and especially domestic violence) has intensified.