The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Women’s contribution to the pandemic needs to be acknowledged

Giulia Magri Wednesday, 17 June 2020, 10:25 Last update: about 26 days ago

“Without women’s invisible, unpaid labour at home taking care of children, sick and elderly and women front liners, the whole country would have spun into chaos,” a study by the Consultative Council for Women’s Rights (CCWR) reads.  The Council underlined that the contribution of women to the pandemic needs to be taken on board and rewarded, and that, in the near future, budgets and services should be reviewed with a ‘gender lens.’

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The CCWR published a position paper on the Effects of COVID-19 on women in Malta, looking into how the virus has affected women on an economic, social and health scale. Due to lockdown measures, women found themselves at home, expecting to continue working whilst also taking care of children or elderly families at home, whilst continuing domestic chores. The position paper looks into how COVID-19 has affected women through different areas such as economy, mental wellbeing, housing, domestic violence, and reproductive health.

 

Special support needed for women in business who struggle in a post-COVID economy

The Council called for special support to be provided to those women in business who might be struggling to recovery in a post-COVID-19 economy. The council highlighted that women find it harder to garner the necessary funding to start up, set up or evolve their business model. “CCWR suggests that an agency or a section within Malta Enterprise needs to be assigned with experienced individuals who can give female owners the needed help to re-organise or re-start a business if this fails post-COVID.”

The council also stressed that salary supplements should continue until the economy rebounds, and not be halted after a period of time. The Council reflected that in April 2020, there was an increase in unemployment rate among workers and are worried that a number of women have been affected by this and are suffering from unemployment.

The paper stated that there is a possibility that the pandemic might lead to severe job losses in sectors dominated by women, such as tourism, retail and cleaning. The Council also reflected on the situation of migrant and undocumented female migrants who might have faced added difficulty due to the pandemic. The Council calls for research and data on how different women were affected regarding employment.

Looking at the COVID-19 social benefits, a large number of women applied for the Parent’s Benefits. “When schools and childcare facilities closed during the pandemic, women were forced, pushed out of the workplace.”

 

Services and support for victims should not be deprioritized after the pandemic

With regard to domestic violence, one of the recommendations provided by the Council is that the authorities need to provide many more resources to women’s organisations and shelters. “The services and support needed by victims should not be deprioritized during and after the pandemic. Shelters and related support services are essential services.”

The council highlighted that victims already find it had to ask for help, even more during lockdown. The Council said the authorities should be well prepared and aid women’s organisations and shelters with extra space if there is a second wave.

The Council also recommended a one-time emergency fund to help women with disabilities who are escaping an abusive relationship, so that they can acquire the medicine they had to leave behind when escaping.

On the note of sexual and reproductive healthcare, the Council highlighted that Malta needs to be prepared and not be affected by a shortage of medical supplies, especially when it comes to contraception and hormone therapy for trans women. The Council also recommended the delivery of contraceptive pills to women at home or at an address which is most convenient to them; especially for women with young children or mobility issues who might find it hard to access pharmacies. “Malta needs to set up a virtual health care service available in multiple languages to allow patients to access sexual and reproductive health services. This can help free up overloaded health systems, during and after the pandemic.”

 

More awareness on changing gender roles

“Covid-19 can be an opportunity to change things for the better.” The paper highlighted that, due to the pandemic, teleworking and remote working were doable and many companies adapted a more flexible work arrangements, which helped families greatly. The Council called that there is a change in traditional discourse around caring, household chore and that there are awareness raising campaigns on the matter.

The Council said a considerable number of women were essential workers and healthcare front liners, and that now it is essential that caring is given more value. “Care workers should be paid better, and their work valued.” The Council called that there are gender sensitive research studies to look into how men and women were affected different to COVID-19. “Data is important for policy makers. It is time for policy makers to adopt an intersectional approach and depart from a one size fits all approach.”

 

 

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