Covid-19 has exposed deep gender inequality in Irish society – Kathleen Funchion TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Equality, Disability and Integration, Kathleen Funchion TD, has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed deep gender inequality in Ireland.
Speaking today on International Women’s Day, Teachta Funchion said:
“This year’s International Women’s Day is an important reminder of the crucial role women have played in their communities, their workplaces and in their families during the public health crisis.
“This last year has been extremely challenging for all of our society and for women in particular. The pandemic has exposed so starkly many of the gender inequalities which were already so tightly woven into Irish society but often went ignored.
“I want to pay tribute to women across the state who have shown incredible leadership during extremely challenging times this year, including frontline staff.
“Women have been at the heart of the care and response efforts to date on the frontline including as cleaners, doctors, nurses, carers, supermarket staff, teachers, crèche workers and many other crucial roles.
“Many have also stepped up and taken on care roles which often aren’t paid or given proper acknowledgment by society- such as caring for children or other relatives. We also know that the responsibility for home schooling has primarily been taken on by mothers; often amounting to effectively another shift of work on top of existing work responsibilities.
“Every aspect of women’s lives has been impacted by the pandemic. Their physical and mental health, as well as economic and social security have all been hit in particularly challenging ways.
“When the pandemic struck, many of the existing inequalities which are so deeply woven into women’s workloads increased exponentially. With creches and schools shut, the role of caring for children intensified and placed even more pressure on women.
“The childcare sector, where an overwhelming majority of staff are women, was disregarded by Government yet again. Their highly skilled, dedicated work continues to receive little more than minimum wage, despite being an essential service during this crisis. Sinn Féin will continue to advocate for better investment in the sector, to increase workers’ pay and also reduce the cost of fees for parents.
“Student nurses are another cohort who are primarily female and have been exploited by our own government, due to their ongoing refusal to give them fair pay for their skilled work. Sinn Féin will continue to stand with them to ensure this is put right.
“We also know that women were much more likely than men to lose their jobs due to Covid-19, as they were more likely to be working in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Women are also over represented in close contact services such as the hairdressing and beauty industries, which have also suffered immensely due to the stop-start nature of rolling lockdowns.
“The pandemic and lockdowns have been a particularly difficult time for women from marginalised groups and disadvantaged backgrounds, as they are further isolated from vital help and supports. This has included LGBT women stuck in households with people who are hostile towards their gender expression or sexual orientation, as well as women living in Direct Provision who are denied privacy.
“The huge rise in reports of domestic violence during the pandemic must concern us all. It is unconscionable that the Government has still not put in place the number of refuge spaces which are needed. No-one should ever be turned away from safety because there is no space in a refuge. The gardaí must be given resources to investigate these serious crimes and support victims who come forward.
“As the end of the current public health emergency is finally in sight, we must be cognisant that any recovery should lead to a more equal Ireland and an Ireland that is more resilient to any future crisis.
“It is crucial that all future policy responses place women and girls - their inclusion, representation, rights, social and economic outcomes, equality and protection at the heart of our policy response.
“I strongly believe that Covid-19 has not only been a challenge for our healthcare system, but also a test for us as a wider society. It has exposed many of the inequalities which had previously been accepted as ‘just how things are’. There can be no doubt that many challenges lie ahead, but there are also opportunities to insist that these equalities do not continue and to demand that we do not go back to the same unequal way of life.
“Our future response will be significantly weakened if we do not factor in the ways in which inequalities have made all of us more vulnerable to the impacts of the public health emergency. We cannot choose to simply repeat past policies and fail to use this moment to rebuild a more equal, inclusive and resilient society for all.
“Covid-19 has exposed gender inequality in our society but this stark revelation has also given us an opportunity which we cannot ignore, an opportunity to decide that things can and will be done differently for the benefit of all our society. It’s time for real and meaningful change to end gender inequality in Ireland.”