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We’re the peak body for gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women

Gender Equity & Women’s organisations unite on Covid19 disaster

Over 100 organisations committed to gender equity and women across Victoria have made a joint statement calling for State and Federal Governments to recognise the gendered impacts of COVID-19. The Statement says:

“The Coronavirus pandemic is exceptionally difficult for everyone and is having a huge impact on all our lives. So far, a gender analysis of the impact of pandemic has been largely invisible in public debate and planning. Many women are on the frontline, delivering essential services in nursing, disability and mental health care, aged-care, early childhood education, teaching, family violence, housing & homelessness, social support and retail. As public fear, concerns for ill-health, financial strain and mandatory isolation intensify in the community, women at the frontline are at increased risk of gendered violence. Gendered work in caring professions has traditionally been low paid and insecure, yet Victorian women are now finding themselves delivering whole of community solutions that support the entire state economy and public health plans. 

Now that schools are delivering educational programs remotely and flexibly, with the majority of children learning at home, it will be women who continue to take on most of the unpaid care work, reducing their hours or giving up paid work, turning the clock back on gender equality. Or they will battle on in an unenviable juggle struggle of keeping both care work and remote employment going at the same time. Women will also be more likely to care for older or disabled relatives and neighbours. The Victorian Government’s Report into the value of unpaid labour in Victoria assessed women’s work at a value of $205 Billion – half of the state’s GDP. The value if this work will only increase during the pandemic. 

For women in insecure work who have lost employment altogether, they face increasing risk of poverty, building on already concerning statistics about the levels of poverty facing single mothers and single women in their senior years.

We are also concerned that Victorian women will be at risk of family and other forms of gendered violence while self-isolating at home. Expert research conducted in Victoria into the connection between Gender and Disaster has found that family violence incidents spike during and after catastrophic events. 

Governments are investing millions of dollars in survival and stimulus money and it will be important for the specific challenges women are facing to be included in disaster response and recovery. Before Covid19, Victoria was already in state-wide disaster response and recovery after the summer bushfires, with many communities across the state already tired and hurting. Gender equal decision making is critical to achieving gender equality before, during and after disaster. Women, girls and gender diverse people must be seen, have their voices heard and their needs met.”

The statement is accompanied by a list of 10 Things Government Can Do Now to address the impacts of COVID-19 on women and gender diverse people:

  1. Fund Gender & Disaster Workers

Each metropolitan and rural, regional and remote area of the state needs a Gender & Disaster worker who can begin working with community organisations to deliver localised health and wellbeing responses, violence prevention initiatives and building community connectedness and support at a local level. Further state-wide responses should also enable Gender & Disaster workers who can provide expertise relating to an intersectional approach within migrant and refugee communities, for women with disabilities, rural, regional and remote women and Indigenous women.

  1. Protect obstetric, gynaecological, sexual and reproductive health services from Covid19 contamination

Women need health services for birthing and pre & post natal care that is virus free and safe. Steps need to be taken to ensure that maternity services are protected from Covid19 without risks to mother or child. We know there were higher rates of maternal and infant mortality during the Ebola pandemic as health services became stressed under the weight of the emergency response.

Women also need access to safe terminations, too. Many more women may choose not to remain pregnant during a period of high mental health stress, financial pressure and global uncertainty. Termination services, including telehealth, need to be supported to respond appropriately to any demand and to be virus free. For this reason, terminations need to be assessed as essential, rather than elective health interventions and any contingency arrangements regarding provision of surgery through private hospital beds must ensure that access to surgical termination is not adversely impacted or removed.

  1. Boost family violence prevention and response activities to cope with an increased demand for support in the community

Gender & Disaster experts know that during and after a significant catastrophic event that the pressure on families becomes enormous. There can be a return to rigid stereotypes which see men assume far more dominant roles in the household. In a pandemic with long periods of quarantine these issues are more acute.

Family violence incidents are anticipated to rise, as is the severity of those incidents as forced isolation during the pandemic puts further stresses on families. The increased risk of family violence across the whole community is high.  Specialist services and emergency responders need to be funded to provide skilled responses to the crisis. In some circumstances, it will also be necessary to empower specialist family violence services with remote safety support facilities. There will also need to be increased investment in housing and accommodation.

  1. Ensure all Covid19 Updates & communications and data gathering applies a gender lens. 

We support the production of the Chief Medical Officer’s Covid19 daily update, including the inclusion of sex-disaggregated data, however we would like to see multilingual information specifically tailored for women, as well as formatting that is shareable on social media, mobile phones and other digital devices. Multi-lingual delivery needs to include in-language radio, ethnic press, language-specific social media and other strategies.

Further, intersectional analysis of the impact of the virus on marginalised cohorts such as Indigenous women, women with disabilities, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women from rural and regional locations and low-socio-economic backgrounds should also be produced on a fortnightly basis.

  1. Provide a wage subsidy to all workers in hard hit industries.

Watching people standing in a Centrelink queue during a pandemic is a devastating sign of the failure of pandemic economic plans at a Federal level. People need to be prioritising public health, not worrying about whether they can put food on the table or a roof over their head. Workers in hard hit industries need immediate guarantees of their income. A wage subsidy should apply to all workers, including those engaged in full time, part time, casual, limited tenure, contractor or gig economy capacity, given that women are the majority of the nation’s precariously engaged work force. 

Jobseeker wage subsidies should also be available to casual workers with less than 12 months continuous employment – the majority of whom will be women. The industries hardest hit by this are accommodation and food services (54.9% women), retail trade (55% women), health care and social assistance (79% women) and education and training (73.2% women).

We also note that many women workers are being stood down before the JobSeeker wage subsidies comes into effect meaning women in many industries will miss out on support altogether if not addressed in further stimulus packages.

  1. Provide recognition and support to carers & educators at home.

In Japan, parents are being paid to stay at home and care for their children. To assist with the additional costs associated with increasing internet access, online educational videos and the purchase of books and other equipment at home, an in-home education allowance during the pandemic would address some of the educational disadvantages presented by home-schooling during the pandemic.

Seniors make up 15% of Victoria’s population, but not all of them live in supported aged care facilities. Many seniors instead rely on family members and non-kin caregivers – mostly women – to provide care and support to enable them to stay living independently at home. Covid19 makes the support women carers provide to elderly relatives more difficult and risky because of social isolation. Recognition of the support being provided by carers at this time could be facilitated with a one-off carer recognition payment. 

  1. Women essential service workers need urgent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and recognition of the risky work they are performing.

It’s bad enough that there are insufficient stockpiles for health workers – but for a number of women who find themselves providing essential services in a pandemic there is limited supply (if any at all) to protect Early Childhood educators, teachers, aged-care, disability and mental health workers, frontline family violence case managers and refuge workers from infection while serving the community. The inadequate supply of PPE in gendered professions needs to be rectified immediately and in further pandemic plans.

Further, essential service workers in frontline caring professions should receive an “essential service worker bonus” as part of further stimulus packages.

  1. All essential workers should also have childcare funded by the Commonwealth for the duration of the pandemic.

During this crisis, there has been significant emphasis on the contribution of teachers and early childhood educators make to enabling a productive economy. As schools close, essential service workers should not be penalised with additional childcare costs for keeping the rest of the country going. Essential service workers cannot stay home and care for children so the best we can do as a country is cover the fees associated with the care and support their own children need.

  1. Commence gender-based planning for post-pandemic reboot of the Victorian economy. Create a Pandemic Stand Down Taskforce to prioritise investment in services & infrastructure required to ensure Victoria gets back on its feet swiftly. All decision-making regarding pandemic response and recovery should be gender equal.

Gender responsive budgeting, investment and economic rebuilding after Covid19 will be essential to ensure that the road to economic recovery does not have a fast track for men and a slow lane for women. Women need to be at the centre of economic rebuilding after pandemic stand-down so that there are no gender gaps in income, employment opportunities and infrastructure investment. A Pandemic Stand-Down Taskforce preparing Victoria for a post Corona-virus rebuilding and investment phase should be established with equal representation of women and a commitment to gender equity.

The COVID19 Commission board and further appointments to any commission focussed on response and recovery should have gender equal representation, in accordance with the Federal and State Government commitment to 50/50 representation of men and women on government boards and in accordance with international frameworks for disaster risk reduction.

  1. Get gender equality investment Back on Track. Ensure that all rebuild efforts and investment apply a gender lens so that women and men benefit equally from the long journey towards recovery.  

Before Covid19 there were inequalities in budgeting that mean women, girls and gender diverse people receive less direct investment in projects, programs and initiatives that benefit them. Pandemic risks further derailing attempts to get gender equity investment back on track. Gains made in Victoria through the legislation of a Gender Equality Act should not be lost as budgets are geared towards disaster response and recovery without oversight by a thorough gender responsive budgeting process.

Organisations endorsing the Gender Equality and COVID-19 Statement:

  1. Gender Equity Victoria
  2. Advancing Women in Business and Sport
  3. African Family Services
  4. Annie North Inc
  5. Asteria Services
  6. Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW)
  7. Australian Education Union
  8. Australian Gender Equality Council
  9. Australian Graduate Women Inc
  10. Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights
  11. Australian Services Union (Vic/Tas)
  12. Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
  13. Australian Women Donors Network
  14. Bendigo Loddon Primary Care Partnership
  15. Birth for Humankind
  16. BPW Australia
  17. Campaspe Primary Care Partnership
  18. CASA Forum Victoria Inc.
  19. Central Hume Primary Care Partnership
  20. Central Victorian Primary Care Partnership
  21. Centre Against Sexual Assault Central Victoria
  22. Centre Against Violence
  23. Centre for Non Violence
  24. CHIRP Community health
  25. City of Darebin
  26. City of Greater Dandenong Council
  27. City of Greater Geelong – Healthy Communities
  28. Club Respect
  29. Cobaw Community Health Services Ltd
  30. Council for Single Mothers and their Children
  31. Djirra
  32. economic Security4Women
  33. Education for Sustainability in the Health Nature and Sustainability Research Group, Deakin University
  34. EMILY’s List Australia
  35. Family Planning Victoria
  36. Femeconomy
  37. Frankston Mornington Peninsula Primary Care Partnership
  38. Gabriela Australia
  39. Gender Matters
  40. Gippsland Family Violence Alliance
  41. Gippsland Free From Violence Coalition
  42. Gippsland Homelessness Network Co-ordinator
  43. Gippsland Women’s Health
  44. Glenelg Shire
  45. Goulburn Valley Primary Care Partnership
  46. Grampians Communities of Respect and Equality (CoRE) Alliance
  47. Health and Community Services Union (HACSU)
  48. Heathcote Health
  49. Her Place Women’s Museum
  50. Hume Whittlesea Primary Care Partnership
  51. Inner North West Primary Care Partnerships
  52. International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
  53. Jean Hailes Foundation
  54. Koorie Women Mean Business
  55. La Trobe University
  56. La Trobe Violence Against Women Network
  57. Loddon Gender Equality & Violence Prevention Consortium
  58. Lower Hume Primary Care Partnerships
  59. Marie Coleman
  60. Marie Stopes Australia
  61. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
  62. Mental Health Victoria
  63. Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre
  64. Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
  65. National Foundation for Australian Women
  66. No To Violence
  67. Northern District Community Health Service
  68. Parents Victoria
  69. Regional Family Violence Partnership (RFVP)– Eastern Region
  70. Shakti Migrant & Refugee Women’s Support Group Melbourne Inc
  71. Sisters4Sisters Support Services
  72. Soroptimist International Brisbane Inc
  73. South West Primary Care Partnership
  74. The Accountability Matters Project
  75. The Capital City LLEN
  76. THE Rural Woman
  77. The Silent Witness Network Inc (TSWN)
  78. Together for Equality & Respect Partnership
  79. Trades Women Australia
  80. United Muslim Sisters of Latrobe Valley
  81. United Workers Union (UWU)
  82. Upper Hume Primary Care Partnership
  83. Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA)
  84. Victorian Primary Care Partnerships
  85. Victorian Trades Hall Council
  86. Victorian Women’s Trust
  87. Wellington Primary Car Partnership
  88. Women in Gippsland
  89. Women in Super
  90. Women with Disabilities Victoria
  91. Women’s Association South East Melbourne Australia (WASEMA) Inc.
  92. Women’s Health & Wellbeing Barwon South West
  93. Women’s Health East
  94. Women’s Health Goulburn North East
  95. Women’s Health Grampians
  96. Women’s Health in the North
  97. Women’s Health in the South East
  98. Women’s Health Loddon Mallee
  99. Women’s Health Victoria
  100. Women’s Health West
  101. Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE)
  102. Women’s Property Initiatives
  103. Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North (WISHIN)
  104. Women’s Legal Service Victoria
  105. YWCA
  106. Zonta District 24

Do you want to endorse our joint statement? Email genvic@genvic.org.au.

GEN VIC’S COVID-19 eBulletin: Gender, Disaster and Resilience

Pandemic and disaster have a gendered impact. At GEN VIC, we want to support our members through this time by providing up to date analysis on the current pandemic, the ongoing impacts of the bush-fires, and how we can best respond to this.

Our e-Bulletin comes out every Friday. It’s your one place to find out what the emerging pandemic and our responses to it could mean for women and gender diverse people.

Subscribe to ‘Gender, Disaster and Resilience’

Edition 1 – COVID-19, Bushfires and Beyond

Edition 2 – COVID-19 and Violence

Edition 3 – Sexual and Reproductive Health During Pandemic

Edition 4 – Education and eSafety During Pandemic

Edition 5 – Health, Heroes and Human Loss

Edition 6 – Violence (Part 2), Victims Voices

Edition 7 – Workplace Equality After Pandemic

Edition 8 – LGBTQI Communities and COVID-19

Edition 9 – Snap Forward, Feminists

Edition 10 – The Arts and COVID-19

Edition 11 – Black Lives Matter

Edition 12 – Care and the Care Economy