Canada leads 30 countries in gender-responsive COVID action: New report highlights room for improvement in humanitarian response

Canada Leads the Pack in Gendered Response, Brazil Ranks the Worst

OTTAWA, 9 JUNE 2020 – COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting women, yet they have almost no representation in national COVID-19 responses across the globe, and their needs are going unmet, reveals a new report by CARE.

Canada leads 30 surveyed countries, with more than 50% of the national COVID-19 response team made up of women. It is also the only country surveyed that has announced funding and policy commitments for gender-based violence prevention and response services, sexual and reproductive health care, childcare support, and funding that specifically recognizes the economic effect of the pandemic on women.

In contrast, Brazil has the lowest percentage of women serving on the national level—less than 4%—and has taken few steps to meet women’s needs during the pandemic. But Brazil is not alone. Very few of the countries surveyed have comprehensively considered gender in their COVID-19 response, and in almost 25% of the sample, CARE found no evidence of any gender specific actions or policies at all.

Gender Equity in COVID-19 Responses:

  • Country whose national-level committee has the highest percentage of women: Canada, 52.17%
  • Country whose national-level committee has the lowest percentage of women: Brazil, 3.7%
  • Average percentage of women on national-level decision-making bodies: 24%

CARE’s research found that countries with more gender-equitable national leadership—as measured by the Council on Foreign Relation’s Women’s Power Index (WPI)—were more likely to have gendered responses than countries with less gender-equitable leadership. For example, France, with a WPI score of 60, and Ethiopia, with a WPI score of 51, both had more gendered responses than countries like the USA or Niger, with WPI scores of 20 and 12, respectively.

“This report demonstrates that the Government of Canada is a leader in putting women's representation and needs at the centre of its COVID-19 response,” said CARE Canada President and CEO Barbara Grantham. “With leadership comes both responsibility and opportunity. By working more closely with local women's organizations that are leading the response to the pandemic in Canada and around the world, Canada can ensure a more inclusive response to the COVID crisis and a swift and inclusive recovery that helps to close rather than expand the gender gap for women in Canada and around the world.”

In CARE’s experience, this also means supporting a localized, woman-led response with funding reaching local women-led and women’s rights organizations. To date, just 0.1% of COVID-19 funding has been directed to local and national NGOs, and women-led organizations are likely to have received an even smaller share of this money. With little funding and programming on hold or cancelled, many women’s rights or women-led organizations are at risk of vanishing.

“Herein lies an opportunity for Canada,” said CARE Canada’s Vice President, International Programs, Jessie Thomson. "By leveraging its Feminist International Assistance Policy, Whistler Declaration and Grand Bargain commitments, Canada has an opportunity to lead a global response that tackles the gender-specific implications of this crisis and ensures that women's voices are not only heard, but are shaping the global response"

CARE’s recommendations include:

  • Canada Leads the Pack in Gendered Response, Brazil Ranks the Worst
  • Urgently work to meet Canada’s Grand Bargain commitment to channel 25% of humanitarian funding directly to local and national actors, with at least 15% earmarked for women-led and women’s rights organizations and to work with those organizations to assess progress against this goal.
  • Ensure that women-led and women’s rights organizations are involved in assessing whether the humanitarian community has made meaningful progress toward the goal of directing 25% of humanitarian funding to local and national actors.
  • Ensure the availability and accessibility of key services—such as GBV prevention and response, and primary, emergency, and sexual and reproductive health care—for women and girls in line with international standards.
  • Advocate with actors in the humanitarian system to include age, disability, and sex disaggregated data in country or regional Humanitarian Response Plans.
  • Facilitate humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance, so that they can continue operations for at-risk women and girls.

Read the full report here


CARE has spokespeople available. For media inquiries, please contact:

Lama Alsafi | 613-228-5641

About CARE Canada:

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE stands with women and girls around the world in economic empowerment. We bring women, girls, and their communities together to challenge inequality while facing issues like food insecurity, climate change, and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster. CARE works in 100 countries around the world.

To learn more about CARE Canada, visit