Since March 2020 women have had a war on their hands, one that they never saw coming. This was going to impact on their lives in every way humanly possible and no-one was going to be exempt. This battle has taken away their safety, livelihood, mental health, support systems, connections, services and their voices.
Through-out the pandemic and during lockdowns we experienced a “Women’s Lockout” this left women in very precarious situations with domestic violence, furlough, unemployment, maternity, childcare, school and caring responsibilities. Women were put at risk; they were silenced and shut away and expected to handle all of these new responsibilities without any additional support.
In order to make significant changes the decision-making process needs to be inclusive of all voices, Women count for 80% of the Healthcare sector, 79% of the childcare sector and 79% of the retail sector yet they are completely ignored and excluded because they are unrepresented at senior levels.
Women have been forgotten and ignored in every room where decisions are being made regarding their careers, their mental health, their employment, their childcare, their children’s education, their education, their caring responsibilities, their finances and their safety. As yet N.I still does not have a Childcare Strategy or a Violence against Women and Children strategy, even though throughout 2 lockdowns domestic violence incidents were rising daily.
The scale of inequality is growing every day because women have been locked out of the decision-making process. To make significant changes in women’s lives, women we need to be in every room where these decisions are being made.
Women cannot continue to be silenced and shut away, engagement is essential! It has become very apparent that Covid is not just a global issue but a feminist issue and needs to be treated as one. We need to apply a gender specific approach to solving these issues and this means ensuring that we have women’s voices in every room.
-Opinion piece by Rayna Downey from our partner organisation, Women’s Centre Derry