How to have hope when this pandemic is punching us women in the guts
COVID-19 has been a blow to everyone, but it’s punching women right in the guts, pushing back the fight for gender equality. The disheartening reality that women are bearing the brunt of the crisis has now been widely reported and is perhaps best summarised by the United Nations Women ‘Explainer’ website (May 2020). There’s a Quiz. Take it.
If you’re a woman, there’s a strong chance that you’ve been shouldering the majority of the domestic and childcare burdens of life in lockdown, that you’ve been forced out of or into part-time work, that you’ve been at high risk of contracting the coronavirus working on the frontlines, or that you’ve been on the receiving end of violence from someone you live with.
Here at Shakti Women, we’ve been hearing from women who have experienced all of the above and while we have services in place to help and support you all, we are gutted and we are angry. Women, we deserve better!
So, how do we keep hope alive for a better future for ourselves and our daughters when we’re just about keeping ourselves alive and our households afloat? How do we keep fighting for our right to a fair and equal world when we just about have time to breathe between the Zoom meetings and the chores and the constant demands for our attention? There’s no easy answer and for the majority of us, well, the answer is simply that we don’t. That we ‘park it’. That we shove it to the back of our minds until some semblance of normality returns. And that’s fair enough. We are in survival mode. The trouble is, what’s happening right now will have a hugely detrimental impact on women and girls even as we begin to escape the clutches of the coronavirus and move into the recovery phase if we all follow the ‘do-nothing’ approach. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women in such a profound way that the slow progress made towards greater gender equality made over the past five years could be reversed altogether.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you with this depressing bombshell without sprinkling some Shakti Women love all over it. So here’s the good news: as we speak, the world’s dirty laundry is hanging out to dry for all to see and there’s absolutely no denying it, no escaping it, no running away from the facts anymore. This alone is spurring on business leaders and policy makers to rethink the status quo. Recovery, they know, absolutely must address the deeply entrenched inequalities that COVID-19 has laid bare and the only way to ‘build back better’ is to take action now towards a fairer society for women. That’s why, for example, in 2020 the multinational British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline doubled the number of places available on its female manager empowerment programme. Win. In some countries, such as Canada, the visibility of women in the media has increased during the pandemic, with several more women experts being called upon in the news than ever before. Win. In Pakistan, a high court ruling has outlawed the invasive and degrading ‘two-finger’ virginity tests in rape victim examinations. Win. And finally, we couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning one of our empowered women icons, Jacinder Arden, whose New Zealand government recently passed a bill to ensure that the persistent causes of the gender pay gap would be addressed, including the undervaluing of female dominated industries. Win.
Yes, the picture for women is bleak right now, but there is always hope, even when you hardly have the time or energy to feel it.
For more information on where women stand in the world, we’ve created The Pink Paper - a document unashamedly pink and unashamedly full of research about women.