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Women RISE initiative launches on International Women’s Day: Canada invests in research to ensure an equitable COVID-19 recovery

Around the world, women and girls have disproportionately suffered the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, women were doing three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Data from UN Women shows that women make up 70% of the health workforce worldwide and are therefore at the forefront of the COVID-19 response; in 11 countries where sex-disaggregated data is available, women account for 71% of confirmed cases among healthcare workers. On many fronts, the limited gains made on gender equity over recent decades are at risk of being rolled back.
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The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control the disease have shocked local and global labour markets, threatened livelihoods, introduced new workplace risks and made unstable work relationships even more precarious. Women have borne the brunt of layoffs and loss of livelihoods, sacrificed their own health at the frontlines of the pandemic response and disproportionately shouldered the burden of the additional caregiving associated with COVID-19. 

To address the gendered impacts of COVID-19, IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have launched Women RISE (Women’s health and economic empowerment for a COVID-19 Recovery that is Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable), a CAD22-million research initiative. Women RISE will support global action-oriented, gender-transformative research on how women’s health and their work, whether paid or unpaid, intersect and interact in the preparation for, response to and recovery from COVID-19. Under the initiative, researchers from low- and middle- income countries and Canada will collaborate to inform solutions and strategies to improve women’s health and socioeconomic well-being throughout the recovery from COVID-19. 

Women RISE takes action on global research priorities identified in the United Nations Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery and is part of Canada’s commitment to gender equality, to empowering women and girls around the world and to promoting their human rights and well-being. 

Quick Facts

  • Women RISE will support up to 20 teams conducting research in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • Women RISE is a joint initiative of IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

  • The Government of Canada is the largest single investor in health research in Canada. It is also a global leader in the field of international health research. 

  • International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. 

Officials from the sponsoring organizations underscored how the research conducted through Women RISE would help to equalize recovery from the pandemic. They also expressed their hopes for the initiative. 

IDRC’s Vice-President, Programs and Partnerships, Dominique Charron, noted, “By supporting Women RISE with our partners, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, we will continue to foster collaboration between Canadian researchers and those in low- and middle-income countries. We hope this initiative will identify solutions that improve women’s health and socioeconomic status during the COVID-19 pandemic and as we recover from it.” 

Women RISE is a commitment to redouble our efforts towards achieving gender equality. By strengthening Canadian and global capacity to conduct gender-transformative research, this initiative will improve the lives of women around the world,” shared Steven J. Hoffman, scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Population and Public Health. 

SSHRC’s Vice-President, Research, Dominique Bérubé, commented that, “We have witnessed how the pandemic has disproportionally disrupted and impacted women’s lives and compromised their autonomy across continents. SSHRC is pleased to partner with the International Development Research Centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to fund Women RISE to ensure that the social sciences and humanities will contribute to finding sustainable solutions that will advance the well-being and leadership of women during and after COVID-19.”

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