Experiences of 2020

Ruth - Political Activist

I’m one of the lucky ones. While I know people who have had covid-19, it hasn’t yet (touch wood) reached my family. Work has moved online without too much difficulty; teenage daughter is coping well, and the permanent snapchat contact with her mates is frankly just business as usual; we have a garden where we can sit out, and Skype our wider family and friends. In terms of my personal life, I am battling with a constant sense of unreality, as if I’m in a kind of existential waiting room and will at some point be called forward to engage with stuff.

However, I have another role, and it’s one where stuff buffets me from all directions: I’m the Scotland spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party. It means I need to know where we stand on all sorts of things. I’m also a member of the party’s policy committee. The committee is full of fantastically knowledgeable women who speak up about gender equality in health, education, parenting and caregiving, work, media and political representation – and about gender-based violence. Coronavirus is affecting every single one of those areas. So, the emails zip to and fro, the Zoom meetings become ever more frequent, and my phone reverberates with WhatsApp notifications as we send each other news of the latest developments and discuss what our responses should be.

This pandemic has exposed and exacerbated all the inequalities that were in our society before it came. Women are taking on the lioness’s share of home schooling and unpaid care work. Women are more likely to have lost their jobs. Women on maternity leave during lockdown are falling through the holes in the furlough safety net. Women are the majority of nurses and carers, who are catching covid-19 because of poor PPE. Lockdown has seen a big spike in domestic violence; extra Scottish Government funding for women’s charities is welcome, but there is a lot still to do. All this and I haven’t even mentioned Black Lives Matter or how the virus is killing more BAME people…

We are trying, via emails and social media, to make our governments (both Westminster and Holyrood) responsive to women’s particular problems as the crisis continues. We urgently need to protect women from violent partners, and to address the question of childcare when children will only be at school part-time. And we are imagining what kind of world we want to build when the virus has run its course.