Skip to main content

Participants gather at the City of Dakar’s Centre for Professional Training and Improvement of Municipal Staff (CEFOPPPEM) in Senegal for an online training course on sustainable development led by CESO adviser Anny Jalbert.CIFAL DAKAR

The global pandemic has impacted everyone. But studies show that women, and especially those living in vulnerable and marginalized communities, have suffered most.

Globally, women account for 54 per cent of job losses. Representing 70 per cent of health-care workers, they have a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. As COVID-19 closures and restrictions have been rolled out, the burden of unpaid and domestic care has fallen harder on women, extracting both a social and economic toll.

Gale Lee has witnessed “how women have borne the brunt of the global crisis, how the disproportionate effect of the pandemic has eroded advances towards gender equality,” says the director of International Services for Asia, Americas and the Caribbean for the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), a Canadian economic development organization committed to gender equality and enabling women’s economic empowerment. “It’s almost like kicking the ladder out from under someone. They were on the way up, but suddenly the ladder has been pulled away.”

Maty Ka, CESO trainee, was inspired to implement CESO’s ‘global goals’ into the activities of her small agricultural company in Senegal (left).Maty Ka

Established in 1967, CESO has had programs in over 120 countries, working through its volunteer advisers, senior-level professionals who provide mentorship and advisory services. CESO is guided by “a core principle of inclusive, equitable and sustainable development,” says Ms. Lee. Through its endeavours, including its new flagship international program, Accelerating Women’s Empowerment (AWE), CESO “promotes equal participation of women as agents of change.

“Gender equality is more than an inherent human right,” says Ms. Lee. “It contributes to building stronger, inclusive economies, resilient communities and improved lives for everyone.”

By ensuring access to resources, cultivating women’s agency, and building their skills and leadership abilities, “we bring out the inherent capabilities and power in women and give them the confidence to carry forward,” explains Ms. Lee. CESO’s work also strengthens the public sector, working with governments, creating awareness about disparities, developing gender policies and effecting systemic change.

Dedicated to cultivating women’s agency and building capacity, CESO adviser Victoria McTaggart supports the development of innovative textile designs for women artisans in Ecuador.SUPPLIED

In Canada, CESO connects with Indigenous women, facilitating their advancement as entrepreneurs and community leaders, says Ms. Lee. Through one-on-one mentoring, CESO advisers offer “the whole gamut of training and guidance in project management, finance and strategic planning.” The goal, says Ms. Lee, is to strengthen small and medium-sized businesses, build capacity and drive sustainability.

Pivoting as a result of COVID-19, and during periods of limited physical contact and travel bans, CESO is delivering programs virtually, providing e-mentoring, online workshops and support, notes Ms. Lee. Even as the pandemic drags on, CESO continues to improve prospects for women through the development of innovative and creative income-generating opportunities, such as e-marketing, e-commerce and e-tourism.

But recovery from the widespread disruption and dislocation wrought by the global threat of COVID-19 will need to be fought on a massive front, says Ms. Lee. “CESO has always embraced a co-ordinated global action. As Canadians, we want to share best practices and lessons learned to help lift others out of less fortunate situations. We’re stronger when we work together.”

CESO gratefully acknowledges financial support from Global Affairs Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, private-sector supporters and individual donors.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with CESO. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.