The future after COVID-19: women, mental health, different public policies and social innovation

Help women take more of a leading role and empower them; prioritize mental health since it can no longer be ignored after enduring a pandemic for over a year; new and different public policies focused on innovation and people, all of these should be some of the priorities when talking about a post COVID-19 era.



Silvia Morimoto from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) participated in the meeting focused on “The post-COVID-19 world: What should we prioritize?” During Cerrito Forum 2021; Jazmín Gustale Gill, former general coordinator of the State’s National Innovation Strategy; and Isabel Guerrero, co-founder of IMAGO, with the moderation of Martín Burt, Executive Director of Fundación Paraguaya.



Morimoto described the work they were developing, despite the difficulties in the pandemic, admitting that all the efforts of the United Nations in Paraguay had to change directions. “We prioritized our help to the Ministry of Health, providing medical supplies, respirators, because we focused on saving lives,” she added.



Regarding the social aspect, she added that they financed the realization of several “ollas populares” (Community meals.) They also focused on combating the spread of fake news about the coronavirus. “We addressed globally and locally to the areas of governance, social welfare, green economy and digital transformation,” she said. On the latter, she pointed out that in education there was a great setback, in which more than 80% of boys and girls do not have access to an internet connection to continue with their education online.



“The future, for Paraguay to adapt to the crisis, lies in innovation,” said Gustale. She admitted that, with different public policies based on the needs of society, progress must be made on the post-COVID-19 path, because there is no alternative but to innovate, to get out of this health crisis. “Social innovation, digital talent to develop futures and normative education to undertake and achieve better technologies,” she cited as issues to take into account, such as an economic reactivation plan.



She said that to empower women, as a priority, digital training or social innovation with a digital base, is not enough; they must be accompanied in a more comprehensive way and with a more participatory approach, from the role they play in society. “Different answers must be given, which can really impact differently,” she said.



From Guerrero’s experience and from all the accompaniment work that they offer from her undertaking, she commented that they were able to help- in a virtual way – many organizations that were going through threatening moments due to the pandemic. “We focus a lot on resilience, understanding how to react to the shock of the pandemic, how to adapt to the situation and move forward,” she said.



She brought up for discussion the importance of prioritizing mental health, pointing out that many communities are beginning to look at this aspect and the current context with special attention. She also shared interesting references from those countries that have women as rulers: “We saw a greater reaction in pandemics. They thought and acted much more about the risks to human lives and prioritized them over the economy, “she said.



They agreed that priority should be given and that more women should be in public sectors and have to be more involved. They said that this is an opportunity to rethink the way income is distributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to recognize and value work at home and reduce the burden on families, with state support and infrastructure.



At the end, the executive director of the Fundación Paraguaya, Martín Burt, reflected on the lessons learned from the pandemic. “All the programs discovered that the strength of societies is women. She is the one who suffered the most, she was the generator of income, the teacher and the psychological support”.



In addition, he left the debate open for other sectors to continue talking and thinking about a post COVID-19 future. “At a global level we run into this problem: mental health, which no one measures, and which is the most serious element of all.”