On Monday, 13 July 2020, the University of Malta’s Department of Gender & Sexualities brought together a number of international academics to assess how the current pandemic has affected women in different aspects of their lives.
Hosted by Prof. JosAnn Cutajar, the webinar titled ‘COVID-19, Women & Government’ delineated issues that should be tackled in the immediate future.
Prof. Louise Morley, Professor of Education from the School of Education & Social Work at the University of Sussex, spoke about the inequalities that have been reinforced by the crisis, and the normalised structures of intimacy as long-term monogamous relationships. She also stated that COVID-19 responsibilised women with childcare, elderly care, home schooling and hygiene. Women have repeatedly been constructed as heterosexual mothers, something which has put members of the LGBTQI community at a disadvantage.
Dr Angelika Sjöstedt, from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mid Sweden University, talked about the changing status of care work, saying that many assumed the pandemic took place in a neutral space, resulting in differences in municipalities and other disparities not being calculated or taken into account.
Dr Fiona Buckley, from the Department of Government & Politics, University College Cork, focused on women in leadership positions, noting that the top-performing countries in terms of COVID-19 recoveries all have strong elements of female leadership. The decisiveness of their decision-making and their communication style in explaining might have been partly responsible for this success.
Dr Iris Laurasi, vice president of GREVIO, Council of Europe, and also from the Department of Journalism and Communications, University of Tirana, explained how violence affected women disproportionately, and this was demonstrated by the increasing number of calls received by helplines across Europe.
Dr Antonella Berry-Brincat, Consultant Ophtalmologist from NHS in the UK, said COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse to restrict access to essential sexual and reproductive health rights as these rights are life-saving. She also stressed the importance of wellbeing and that we look after ourselves.
Finally, Prof. Susan Hirsch from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University drew on a number of feminist concepts to see if they can be approached in new ways, citing a recent study which revealed women are more likely to wear masks and take precautions related to COVID-19.
This was followed by an interesting Q&A which was moderated by a graduate from the Department of Gender and Sexualities, Ms Anna Sangare.
A recording of the webinar may be accessed online.