There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis has had a much greater impact on women than men. The double burden of family responsibility increased with the closure of schools and Working From Home arrangements. Many women were already in precarious forms of employment when the pandemic started. This quickly turned into excessive working hours or no work at all. Meanwhile the gender pay gap widened, revealing how little real progress was made over the past decade.
Many of the policies of employers and governments to adddress gender discrimination and promote gender equality simply collapsed in the first few months of the pandemic. The systemic vulnerability faced by women due to gender discrimination and patriarchy quicly resurfaced. Despite the call to fight COVID-19 togther, women saw their wages decline relative to men’s wages as the pay gap widened and their work was attributed less value.
At the same time women’s vulnerability to sexual harassment – especially in recruitment and renewal of employment contrracts – increased, as did domestic violence during lockdown.
More than ever women need unions to build their power to fight gender discrimination and inequality and to defend their rights. But to do that unions need to be safe for women and to fight for a safe workplace.
In the week leading up to International Women’s Day (March 8, 2021) our members in 14 affiliated unions in 20 cities in 8 countries held seminars, webinars, real and virtual meetings and public rallies (with masks and distancing) to bring attention to our call for Empowering Women through Unions in the COVID-19 era. They also called for unions to take action to stop sexual harassment and violence against women, and to Make Unions and Workplaces Safe for Women!