Normally a time for celebration, education and highlighting the importance in fixing structural inequalities - this month (for me at least) has turned instead to a month long social media scroll in vague attempts of feminist engagement. But, even though we're in lockdown it's not too late to get involved in the beauty of International Women's Month - so I've compiled a list of things we can all do to support the galdem from the comfort of our own homes during Covid-19 lockdown.
I've tried to include a range of actions as I understand not everyone is in the financial situation to donate during this time as Covid-19 has placed a number of extra barriers and worries in all of our lives. Additionally, some of these issues below are not necessarily confined to women alone - but I ask that you understand that for many women these issues are exacerbated by their gender and therefore need additional support in these worrying times.
Refuge is charity that supports womens and children fleeing domestic violence and have issued a statement outlining how Covid-19 isolation can have a dangerous effect on those experiencing domestic abuse: 'While in lockdown or self-isolation, women and children are likely to be spending concentrated periods of time with perpetrators, potentially escalating the threat of domestic abuse and further restricting their freedom.'
Alternatively, if donating isn’t possible for you right now, you can share the following information on your social media:
'If you are worried about a loved on, or about isolating with a perpetrator, please call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or contact the Helpline via Refuge's contact form at www.nationalahelpline.org.uk. To ensure your safety you can let us know how to contact you and what time to contact you. In an emergency, always be ready to call 999 if you are in danger.'
Share the workload - fix structural inequality from home
It’s well researched and proven that women do more unpaid care and domestic work in both developed and developing countries. This unpaid work is integral to the foundation of our families and society but often goes unnoticed and unrecognised. It’s important that we look out for these inequalities in our own lives and work to reset the boundaries of structural inequality.
We can all help by encouraging everyone in our lives to split all unpaid work between genders so that women can rest, feel empowered and spend their unpaid time how they wish. We can help in our own lives by calling out unequal domestic work loads and if you’re not a woman then reflecting on how much unpaid labour you do in comparison and making it equal. If you would like to read more about how unpaid domestic work adds to structural inequality, the UN Women website has much more information available.
Periods don’t stop in a pandemic
Bloody Good Period are an amazing charity who work to supply a sustainable flow of menstrual protection for those who can’t afford it and as they’e rightly stated - periods don’t stop in a pandemic. There are lots of people who get periods who are now in lockdown in the UK - many of these people might not be able to find menstrual products because of panic buying in supermarkets, others may have previously relied on free products from schools or places of work and are having to swap out other items on their essentials shopping list. Even more people simply cannot afford them with the added possibility of job and salary insecurity being exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
So what can we do to help?
Why not make a donation, which buys a pack of pads for someone here? You’d normally be able to volunteer your time to Bloody Good Period and make physical donations of menstrual products, but after the announcement of UK lockdown they’ve asked for support to be concentrated on monetary donations -read the full statement here.
Without volunteer support, they’ve implemented a trust-based ‘Take What You Need’ (TWYN) scheme via their storage facility in Alexandra Palace. If you’re not able to donate - why not share the information from the Covid-19 statement on how people in need can access the storage facility.
If you’d like to read more about period poverty, Bloody Good Period have written a report with Women for Refugee Women, which you can download here.
Follow causes you care about on social media
Like, follow and share all of the wonderful content that is out there. There are lots of social media pages which spread happiness, education and feminist values who would love you to show your support - many of these pages are businesses and artists who thrive off engagement. By connecting with them you can help them reach larger audiences which could bring them new followers or even potential business.
So how can you help?
Engage with their social media - leave comments recommending their work so others can see. If you’ve got income available, buy from their online shops or it might be worth asking if you can pay for a personal commission. Some of my own personal feminist accounts include, UN women (informational account), The Guilty Feminist (comedy podcast), Utopian Fallopian - below left - (vulva artist), Girl Gaze - below right - (network for photography & creatives), Cat Calls of London (activism page) Bad Ass Cross Stitch (activism and cross stitching) and Photography Of Liberty (blog of a really cute baby dressed as feminist heroes). Now is a great time to share and support their work.
Support safe abortion in Covid-19- tweet Boris Johnson to intervene
BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) are experts on safe abortion in the UK and they’re asking us all to tweet or email Boris Johnson as well as our own MPs to call for an intervention in the midst of Covid-19 as vulnerable women are now at severe risk.
BPAS have advised that over the next 13 weeks of lockdown/social distancing measures that 44,000 women will need an Early Medical Abortion, which equals 44,000 unnecessary trips to the clinic. These trips could be easily avoided if the government permitted telemedicine which would allow women to be treated at home. Additionally to this, the closure of many UK clinics already has meant women have had to travel further afield to reach this in person support. This can be additionally traumatic and potentially dangerous to those in the vulnerable categories.
So what can we do to help?
Tweet Boris Johnson and your local MP if you have the time, to tell them about what's happening to these vulnerable women. You can see a Twitter thread with lots of information that you can retweet here. You can also read their full Covid-19 statement here to understand more about how the issue has become exacerbated with the current pandemic. Here’s an example of what BPAS suggest that we tweet:
Support trans rights - educate yourself
Cisters support sisters, right? If you’re a cis man or cis woman why not take some of your down time during International Women’s Month/the lockdown to educate yourself on trans history and rights. Members of the trans community often speak about the emotional toll that comes from teaching their friends and allies the basics of what makes up their identities. This is the ideal time to become an active ally and find out more information as well as how to support the community as a whole.
Take some time to educate yourself on trans issues through active learning instead of relying on people you know to explain things. You can also get involved in online activism for trans rights. One way to get involved is to join Stonewalls ‘Come out for Trans Equality Campaign, or you can look into how to make your workplace more accessible for trans people e.g. do people have their pronouns in their email signatures/are there pronoun stickers or badges available for events? If you’d like to find out more, you can read a report from YouGov on trans and non-binary experiences in Britain here.
Donate to a food bank
During recent weeks, we’ve seen an increasing struggle in accessing food in our supermarkets. For some of us, it’s been difficult trying to buy our weekly shops among the panic buying but for others it's impossible to buy for self-isolation or lockdown as buying in bulk simply is not affordable. This has seen a rise in the use of foodbanks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Charities such as the Trussell Trust are used to high demand, giving out 1.6 million food parcels between 2018-19, but the recent demand has been hard to keep up with.
Women are amongst one of the highest risk groups in need of using food banks as they’re statistically at higher risk of living in poverty. They’re also at the bottom end of the labour market within society and more likely to be the head of single parent families (with 90% of single parent families being led by single mothers).
What can I do to help?
You can go to the Trussell Trust donation page where you can make a one off donation or sign up to a regular direct debit. You can also read how to donate supplies directly, which includes dropping supplies off at your local food bank directly or at your local supermarket drop off point. Before donating, please check with your local food bank to see what supplies they’re currently in need of.
Amnesty International - sign petitions
Amnesty International is a well known campaigning organisation who fight tirelessly against human rights abuses worldwide. Throughout the year you can look through the website and find lots of important petitions to sign which go on to lobby politicians and make crucial changes.
Right now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Amnesty International has provided a statement of how governments need to keep human rights obligations at the forefront of their activity during Covid-19 which you can read here. They’ve also outlined how for the most vulnerable in our societies, it’s effects are much worse and still often unclear, whilst discussing people experiencing domestic violence, homelessness and people living in poverty - of which the suffering of women is often exacerbated within these groups. It also talks about the Coronavirus Emergency Powers Bill, which outlines the additional powers of the government during this unprecedented time. Amnesty International supports the bill but will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the development to ensure human rights are upheld.
What can I do to help?
There's a number of things you can do to help support women's human rights with Amnesty International. Firstly, you can sign petitions! There are so many women who need your help. You can read their stories here and add your name to support their cases. Another really great thing you can do is share this video on your social media which outlines all governments obligations to human rights during the Covid-19 outbreak.