Why it’s time we talked about the impact of COVID-19 on women

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Sarah Rees

As the PM and his ‘war cabinet’ of men continue to inform us of how they are going to do whatever it takes, women are being rocked by announcements that will make their lives implode.

Pregnant women

The first major blow came on Monday evening with the news that pregnant women are now in the high-risk category and must immediately self-isolate. I heard from one pregnant woman earlier this week who is a self-employed hairdresser. She’s had to tell all of her clients she cannot work any longer.

To rub salt into the wound, there’s still no support being outlined for the self-employed other than access to basic benefits. Surely Boris should be looking close to home and leading the way when it comes to maternity rights?

Parents

Wednesday’s announcement of school closures has given parents across the UK sleepless nights. This decision is going to disproportionately affect women as we do the majority of childcare. Mum’s are calling the helpline at Pregnant Then Screwed, a campaign to end maternity discrimination, reporting that they are being expected to pick up the slack despite both partners being at work.

Whilst many are able to work from home, this is a middle-class issue. So many traditional women’s roles have geographical requirements. One young mum who works in retail has said her only option is to send her child to live with other family members, an hour away, so that she can work to ensure her family escape financial ruin.

Front line workers

Women make up the majority of health and social care workers, with the NHS on the frontline, they will be supported by the backbone that is social care. Yet there has been a distinct lack of coverage on the issues concerning social care.

Care is classed as women’s work. Its low-paid, often on zero-hours contracts and with poor terms and conditions. Age Cymru pointed out early on that this may result in the risk of some continuing to work despite illness for fear that they won’t be able to pay their bills.

Two million of the lowest-paid workers don’t qualify for sick pay. Should they take sick leave, many of these and other low paid workers will only be eligible to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because they earn less than the threshold of £118 per week. This will result in a loss of up to 38% of income, for those who earn the lowest amount of money in our society.

Women and children at risk of violence

In a time when Governments are establishing isolation processes to slow the pandemic, there is fear that we are condemning women and children at risk of violence to a death sentence. Early evidence from China shows potential increases in violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV).

Welsh Women’s Aid, and services across wales are working hard to protect survivors amid significant strain, and are calling for regular, co-ordinated planning meetings with the VAWDASV sector and government. In England, a weekly virtual meeting is being co-ordinated by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and the equivalent must be carried out in Wales with our National Advisers.

 

The solution

The last seismic shift for women’s rights came amid WW2. The actions taken by government amid this crisis could be the springboard for our next leap forward:

  • Freedom to work flexibly will no longer be questionable.
  • A new respect for those providing essential services like social care finally earning them the decent pay and conditions they deserve.
  • Women with no recourse to public funds could have long term access to refuge services enabling them to flee violence.

But the biggest, and most fundamental change that could be implemented is universal basic income. Plaid Cymru propose a basic monthly allowance to be paid to those at risk of unemployment. Adam Price believes there is twofold impact; it will act as a safety net for individuals and provide economic stimulus at a time of grave uncertainty.

To have gender equality truly at heart, I’d like to see this basic income extended to all single parents. These families are at a much higher risk of harm following the fallout of this unprecedented time. Currently half of the children living in single-parent households live in poverty.

Universal Basic Income can end that and stop the likely increase in poverty too.

Sarah Rees is a campaigner for equal parenting and currently working with the office for Bethan Sayed AM during her maternity leave.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

17
Leave a Reply

avatar
11 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
MawkerneweksarahJohn Evansj humphrysWalter Hunt Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Jonesy
Guest
Jonesy

Seriously . ? Yeah this really is the time for gender politics, absolutely pathetic Plaid Cymru.

Carol Loughlin
Guest
Carol Loughlin

Are you a man by any chance?

Mathew Rees
Guest
Mathew Rees

The virus doesn’t care about your sex.

Jonesy
Guest
Jonesy

No, a middleage independent, feminist woman then i suppose you do not recognise women as a gender do you? We really have had enough of this. How can anyone take Bethan Sayed and her cohorts seriously after her call for better maternity pay for the well paid AMs. The woman is a car crash , God Alive plaid are shooting themselves in the foot time after time. Who is the idiot in charge of their comms ? definately not Don Draper. Total shambles and completely out of step with the real world and the current crisis. Between the invisible, weak… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Plaid Suicide. Adam, you gotta do something. 1. Kick out the crazy Left. or 2. Move all your supporters to The Welsh National Party. Much more of this, and they’ll be going anyway.

Gareth Westacott
Guest
Gareth Westacott

The very first sentence betrays the dogmatic slant of this article: “As the PM and his ‘war cabinet’ of men. . .”
– ‘. . of men’, mark you.
Then what about all these women cabinet members? : Priti Pattel, Liz Truss, Dr. Therese Coffey, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Amanda Milling, Suella Braverman.

Mawkernewek
Guest

OK. Dw i’n yma yn Nhruru, Cernyw. Dydy ddim y peth dw i’n darllen ar y wefan hwn yn actualli consistent gyda’r byd dwi’n gweled dros fy ffenstr. Mae’r algorithms Twitter a Facebook yn dod yn wael. Possybl fydd firws computer yn fod yn transmissible i humans!

Mawkernewek
Guest

Mae Plan B ar gyfer y NHS yn rhoi 100 liters o hufen ia i pob plentyn yn Prydain. Y Universal Helicopter Ice-Cream. Bydd y plant yn chwilio am pob dros saith deg oed, ha rhoi hufen ia, ag os fydd ffefr coronafirws gyda nhw, y treatment hwn yw recommended gyda’r NHS rhag popeth.

Mawkernewek
Guest

These new, the youngest of NHS workers, with 100 litres of ice cream each, will together deliver approximately 600 million liters of ice cream. Kelly’s ice-cream is about £4 in the co-op at the moment if I remember, with a coupon for 50p off. each tub is approximately 114 syns in the Slimming World system, but recent evidence has indicated that consumption of large quantities of ice-cream can reduce anxiety.
The plan will cost £2.4 billion pounds, at the £4 price, since the administrative overheads of the coupons are inconsistent with the fast delivery of this program.

Mawkernewek
Guest

In the homes of typical working people in Cornwall, to work from home when the children are present could have some opportunities. If the workers who are being given unprecented demands, collapse from exhaustion, the children will pick up the laptops, and send the emails. It is hoped that in addition to taking on these great responsibilities, time will be found to meet the wellbeing needs of our heroic workers. When the parents awake again, they have the right to watch televisions channels of their own choice via a voting system agreed on by all, while their work is delegated… Read more »

Walter Hunt
Guest
Walter Hunt

This crisis should cause us to reflect on ourselves, our society and our priorities.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Good idea, Walter. One thing has struck me; I’m very old fashioned and like boys to be educated in boys schools up to bac. So I was interested to see that some boys, now being educated at home via Computer links, are finding that they are doing a bit better, as they are not distracted so much, and others are not subject to bullying, among other benefits. Leading to; A Finnish journalist has also written that, wild and good ideas often come from the same source, and are often laughed at in classrooms, and transferred to the workplace later. This… Read more »

Mawkernewek
Guest

We will see what things look like after BBC Countryfile airs this evening.

John Evans
Guest
John Evans

As a plaid member I find this article divisive and embarrassing. Oh and I’m a man. However despite being a member of the despicable gender, I am a carer for my disabled wife 24/7. I get the princely sum of just under £70 a week for this (168 hours a week I’m there – just under 39p an hour!) You sound a bit ‘chippy’, we are all affected by this. By focusing on women you just look blinkered and narrow minded. How about now is the time to discuss covid 19 and PEOPLE!

sarah
Guest
sarah

wow, wish I’d taken advice and not read the comments. For clarification this is my personal view and not that of Plaid Cymru in any way. I simply stated that I support the call Plaid Cymru have made for Universal Basic Income.
A feminist view is not divisive or narrow minded. I am raising issues which are being talked about with women and not being discussed in mainstream politics or media.

Mawkernewek
Guest

Heddiw, 23 Mawrth 2020, amser yw penderfynu ffordd gwella amgylchedd yn
fy ystafell wely yn pum mlynedd 2020-2025.

Yr wythnos hwn, Dydd Lun i Ddydd Gwener 23 bys dhe 27 mis-Mawrth 2020,
ysgrifennaf y cynllun, a’r pum mlynedd nesaf, gwraf fy gwneud.

Prynhawn Dydd Llun, degemmerais galwad teleffon a’r Job Centre.

Does ddim rhaid i fy mynd i’r Job Centre, ond y taliadau parhau.

Peth ydy hwn, “garden leave” a “Contributory Job Seekers Allowance”?

Gwnaf fy garddio yn barod.

Mawkernewek
Guest

I assume the powers that be don’t understand our societies, and that at least Cornwall and Ceredigion are gradually to be transitioned into dinosaur amusement parks.

I am more worried about what happens if the CORMAC and Truro City Council gardening teams turn up at the same place at the same time. While you’re all on garden leave, consider the impact on the NHS. Do you really need power tools for this?