Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World

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Ms. Abdullah has seen her students struggling with the double burdens of a brutal conflict and the social isolation that has come from the pandemic. Photo: UNDP Iraq/Moyasser Nasseer

Sana’a Abdulrazzaq Abdullah is the principal of Al-Watan School for Girls in Mosul, the city she was born and raised in. As a girl she remembers growing up in a tightly knit community, one that valued solidarity and education.

“I was born in the sixties,” she says, “and when we were children in the seventies, Iraq was at the height of its progress and development.”

The coronavirus pandemic is just one of a series of hardships Ms. Abdullah and the people of Mosul have faced in the ensuing years.


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The Al-Haj Secondary School for Girls is open again after being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zena Khalid, 13, is enjoying a novelty — being back at her newly-renovated school in Mosul, Iraq.

The Al-Haj Secondary School for Girls is open again after being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a challenging time for the girls and their teachers as they coped with continuing their learning and the lack of social interaction. Zena has missed her friends and her teachers and is excited to be back.

“Studying remotely was difficult to understand. Now that we are back at school, I can ask questions and understand my subjects better,” she says.

An entire generation of…


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UNDP and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation have developed seven radio messages and 16 live radio programmes to broadcast reliable information about COVID-19 in Miskitu the most widely spoken language in the La Moskitia region. Photo: Nirat.pix/Shutterstock.com

Faustino Wills looks forward to his regular coronavirus radio broadcasts and he tunes in faithfully every time they’re on air.

“When the time approaches, I look for my radio and lie down in my hammock to listen and learn,” he says.

Faustino lives in La Moskitia, a remote area of eastern Honduras where the Miskitu, Pech, Tawahka and Garífuna, four of the country’s nine indigenous afro-Honduran peoples, coexist.

The virus was relatively slow to reach the region. But its impact has added to the already devastating effects of hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020.

Faustino’s communities are particularly vulnerable to…


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A farmer learns how to vaccinate her goats. Photo: UNDP Zambia/Moses Zangar, Jr

Sylvia Chiinda used to live on the edge of desperation. Her husband died a few years ago, leaving her with no savings or possessions. It was a crushing blow for the mother of seven.

To make matters worse Zambia has seen a rise in more frequent and intense floods, recurrent droughts and other climate risks, that have reduced yields for farmers like Sylvia, putting lives and livelihoods in the crosshairs.

With her maize and groundnut farm production dwindling, Sylvia was forced to find an alternative income to keep her family afloat.

She started running a makeshift grocery shop in her…


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Prisoners learn carpentry. The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, require that prisoners be actively employed for a normal working day and that vocational training in useful trades is provided, especially for young prisoners. Photo: SNU Bénin/Yezael Adoukonou

A prison’s mission is to “protect society, ensure that sanctions are applied, promote rehabilitation of inmates and prepare their socio-professional reintegration,” says Serge Oké, Administrator of the Abomey civil prison in Benin. Thanks to UNDP he was able to participate in the Support Project for the Improvement in Access to Justice and Accountability, implemented by the Ministry of Justice and Legislation.

“I was able to take part in a training session for prison managers on the administration of prison units. This training has provided us with the skills to perform administrative tasks. We have now more confidence in the conduct…


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100 cultural tour guides took the opportunity to upgrade to trekking guide through Trekking Guide Course. Photo: Bhutan trek guide

Lhamo and her husband, both cultural tour guides, lived a comfortable life in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu before COVID-19 broke out. Prior to the pandemic there was no dearth of work as tourists continued to pour into the country, dubbed as “the last Shangri-la”.

Bhutan reported its first COVID-19 case, an American tourist, on 6 March 2020. In a bid to keep the highly contagious virus at bay, the Bhutanese government immediately closed its borders, a restriction that’s yet to be eased, let alone lifted.


How a village shaken by COVID-led economic slowdown is using local skills to generate income for the community

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Photo: ArturTona/Shutterstock.com

Gyan Bahadur Gurung started farming potatoes about three years ago on a large plot of land about a three-hour walk from his village of Olang in Gorkha district, a remote region of Nepal. Gurung, along with other Olang locals, grew about four to five tonnes of potatoes every year.

But as production grew, they ran into a problem. They had no storage facilities for the potatoes and much of the large harvest was going to waste.

“We had been growing a lot…


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Through UNDP’s Strengthening Livelihoods Security for Peace and Recovery in Darfur Project, internally displaced women learned leatherwork, building on local practices to create practical, high-quality and lucrative in-demand products such as wallets, baskets, shoes, bags and decorative items.

Aisha Khatir painfully recounts the ordeal she went through 16 years ago when the Darfur conflict reached her home. After her village in South Darfur was destroyed, she and her eight children had no choice but to flee.

Together, they trekked 240 kilometres to safety in South Darfur’s capital Nyala. “I had to leave my husband and stepson behind,” she says. She would later find out they had both been killed.

Settling in a camp for the internally displaced, Aisha had limited options to support her family. Turning to one of few available, she eked out a living of less…


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Through resilience and creativity, the Garay family started a new baked goods business after they closed their minimarket due to the pandemic.

Entrepreneurship has always implied risk, and even more so in a pandemic. When COVID-19 coronavirus paralyzed Peru, most companies turned to their savings to sustain themselves during what initially was thought to be a two-week quarantine. But limitations continued. “The hardest thing was closing our minimarket and being locked up for several months, hardly capable of believing this was actually happening,” says entrepreneur Liz Garay. While some businesses fell others, such as Liz and her family, completely reinvented themselves. “We kept adapting and as such, this adversity provided new opportunities,” she says.

“An entrepreneur is not only someone who opens…


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Zimbabwe’s informal food economy is the second largest in the world and some of the most vulnerable people depend on it for their livelihoods. It’s important to know how that economy works, and especially how it is being affected by the 2020 pandemic.

We took a data-driven approach to this challenge. We began by asking ourselves two questions. What are the factors determining the price of goods? Second, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed those systems, and how has it stressed the economy’s weak points?

Like any informal economy, Zimbabwe’s is complicated — the price and availability of basic produce…

UN Development Programme

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