The Northern Ireland Executive has been urged to take emergency action to address the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women.

The Women’s Policy Group (WPG), which represents the interests of women in Northern Ireland, today launched its recovery plan detailing how the pandemic has affected women and setting out recommendations to address gender inequality in Northern Ireland.

The Covid-19 Feminist Recovery Plan looks at the economic, health, social and cultural impact of Covid-19 and calls on the Executive to implement policies on key issues such as childcare and low paid work.

Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector lobbyist, said that the voices of women must be heard as the Northern Ireland Executive plans for recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

She said: “Women are bearing the brunt of the crisis economically and socially. Statistics show that 79% of health and social care staff are women, 85% of part time workers are women, while 70% of workers ineligible for statutory sick pay are women and face losing their income if they stay at home.”

The report calls for emergency economic and social measures across a wide range of issues. One example of the support needed is to provide universal and free childcare as essential for economic recovery, post pandemic. It argues that it will not be possible to transition out of full lockdown without tackling this issue.

‘Inequalities facing women have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and childcare is no exception’

Ms Powell added: “Inequalities facing women have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and childcare is no exception. Many women face stark choices between their work and childcare commitments, as school closures and limited access to childcare settings creates significant challenges for families.

“We are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive and all Ministerial Departments to work with the women’s sector and childcare sector to develop an effective strategy that will address these inequalities.”

The 126-page report argues that despite vast evidence highlighting the effect of Covid-19 on women, the Northern Ireland Executive has largely ignored the gender implications of the crisis. If this continues to be the case, women will suffer disproportionately for many years beyond the pandemic and decades of progress on equality will be lost.

It sums up: “If the Northern Ireland Executive truly wants to end gender inequality in Northern Ireland, we need to see a commitment to substantive acknowledgement of the gendered harms of Covid-19 and meaningful steps to address these.

 “We want to work with the government, and all departments, to ensure that all policymakers are aware of the negative impact certain policy decisions are having on women. We have the expertise to inform Covid-19 recovery planning and we have the evidence needed to inform relevant strategies, legislation and the Programme for Government.”

The plan has been supported by the All-Party Group on Women, Peace and Security.

To access the summary of recommendations go to: https://wrda.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WPG-Feminist-Recovery-Plan-Summary-of-Recommendations.pdf

 
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