Most of us have never lived through a time like this. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives around the globe, and is arguably the most serious health crisis Canada has ever faced. Beyond the health concerns, this past year has exposed massive cracks in our society. The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, vulnerable people, and those already marginalized. It has exasperated the challenges of people who were already struggling. Stories, studies and research show us that women have been deeply affected in a variety of ways. From job losses, to suddenly caring for children at home, or home schooling, to serving on the front lines of healthcare; women are shouldering a large majority of the burdens.
Additionally, we’ve seen rates of violence against women skyrocket worldwide. In Canada’s recently-released profile on family violence from 2019, women made up almost four-fifths of all victims of intimate partner violence (79%). While these statistics were similiar before the pandemic began, they are important in understanding the grim situation many women were already facing before lockdowns started.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought lockdowns world-wide, school and daycare closures, job losses, and restrictions for women’s shelters. The impact these stressors had on families was huge, and for many, it created situations where there was a possibility of family violence or an increase in the severity of violence. Women and children attempting to flee abusive situations faced additional barriers and in some cases, were unable to seek help. This is still the case for so many.
As we enter the recovery phase of COVID-19, it is imperative that women are at the centre of the recovery plan. A recovery plan that advances gender equality and creates stability - both economic and social - for all people - is vital to creating an inclusive society. This year’s International Women’s Day Theme, we’re focusing on #FeministRecovery We must ensure women are a part of all discussions and plans for economic recovery and rebuilding, for supporting women and caregivers who are the frontlines of the pandemic, and in helping families who are suffering or healing from violence.
By placing a gender lens on the recovery process, we can then better determine what our society most needs to rebuild. Understanding the massive cracks that already existed, we can ideally rebuild with a greater understanding of what is required to create a more inclusive and equal society, economically and socially. Only by supporting those who are most vulnerable and marginalized, can we really begin to rebuild properly.
Today, choose to challenge and call out inequality gender bias. Celebrate the achievements of women. Support initiatives and women who are working hard for positive change. Follow the #FeministRecovery movement and help advocate for change, for women everywhere. Together, we can help to rebuild a more inclusive world.