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Covid-19 and women's equality

A nurse with cleaning equipment, a woman in an apron cooking, a women in a lab coat with shopping, a call handler, and a woman ironingWe want to know how Covid-19 is impacting on women's lives in Scotland.

This isn't just a public health issue for women - it comes with an increase in unpaid care, precarity for those in insecure housing, higher risks for those in low-paid and precarious work, damaging societal expectations of motherhood, new ways of carrying out online harassment, and many other ways in which women are being discriminated against.

Your stories of how the pandemic is affecting you - from domestic micro-aggressions to exploitative employers - will be used to inform our policy work and highlight how the virus is having a disproportionate impact on women.

If you are seeking support, please visit our Covid-19 resources page here.

redundant
October 2, 2020

I had covid way back in March and I am still not fully recovered, my lung capacity is greatly decreased, I now have chronic fatigue and I am unable to concentrate on anything. I was made redundant from both of my jobs, one of which told me I was redundant over facebook messenger. I have attempted suicide twice since lockdown began, and have not been given any meaningful help from my local mental health team. I am struggling to hold on.

Engender response:

We are sending you so much love and solidarity.

Some resources which might be helpful:

If you can't leave the house, call the Scottish Government's national assistance helpline on 0800 111 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and they can connect you to your local authority who should be able to help.

Mental health/suicide
- You can call 111 or visit A&E if you are feeling unsafe.
- Call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123 any time of day or night. They will listen to anything you need to talk about. You can also contact them on jo@samaritans.org or send a letter if you prefer to write things down.
- Call 0800 83 85 87 to talk to Breathing Space. The service is open 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday - 6am Monday) and 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday - Thursday).
- Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, text “YM” if you are under 19.

Chronic Fatigue:
- call the ME (including covid-related chronic fatigue) Crisis, Advocacy and Support Service on 0117 927 9551
- Action for ME (including covid-related chronic fatigue) have lots of great resources here https://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-support-now/coronavirus-and-me-cfs/me-and-coronavirus/ and can link you with a local support group

Redundancy/employment

- PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) helpline can be called on 0800 917 8000
- Redundancy Help in Scotland has lots of info here https://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/redundancy-help-scotland
- Find out which social security payments you are eligible for and apply here: https://www.mygov.scot/benefits/

Tea in the Pot women's drop-in
September 29, 2020

probably not what your looking for but the amount of women who are not being diagnosed early enough regarding cancer is quite frightening eg a women just been given 6 months. It it due to lack of GP attention because of Covid. Also men being affected - something is really going on with little action being taken sadness is beyond belief at this time.

Pregnant and Facing Redundancy
September 25, 2020

I found out I'm pregnant at the beginning of lockdown. It's been a lonely time: the maternity services were closed in my area and I haven't been able to see family and friends as I live too far away. On Monday I'll have my first face-to-face midwife appointment (I'm 6 months along now) and I'll be so relieved to see how the baby is doing and ask all my questions.

I work at a health charity and things have been tough during the pandemic. My colleagues were selected for furlough so my workload was doubled, and my hours reduced to save money for the charity. As a result I've not been able to save as much for the baby as I hoped. Now my team is being made redundant. Sadly we're all female home-based workers, many with families and pre-existing health conditions, having chosen these jobs for the flexibility they offered. Staff in the London head office are largely unaffected by the cuts the charity is making and it does feel that women/home-based workers are being disproportionately affected.

Luckily I'll make it to my qualifying date for SMP, but I feel concerned about whether I'll be able to find a job for the short period before the baby comes and how I'll make ends meet after the drop in income I've experienced.

Worker and mother
September 24, 2020

Switched from office working to working from home with 9 year old at home.
Manager furloughed the full-time Office Manager even though they too could have worked from home (a cashflow decision I felt). Their work, instead, was split amongst the boss, her husband (who has his own full-time job) and me who was asked to do overtime (in spite of having to home-school in addition to working and shop for my mother who was in the shielding category.
When things got too much for my boss, they took time off, leaving me to cover the phone, alone, from my home with my daughter in the next room, able to hear when a disgruntled client had called and seeing the effect that would have on me.
Because I didn't have any kind of safe office setup at home, I developed sciatica which I am still suffering with now even after purchasing the correct office equipment, at my own expense. I didn't earn enough to utilise any tax rebates for working from home.
It was acs small accounting office so we had to deal with a huge influx of requests for help with the furlough scheme, loans and SEISS claims and some clients were understandably in distress at times, and some took that out on us.
My boss was in the shielding group and was very afraid of contracting Covid and dying and it impacted on her mood and I felt the effects of that as well as the break down in another work relationship she was having that I felt drawn into unnecessarily.
I left my job a few weeks ago when I couldn't take it anymore.
My boss accepted my resignation with no question and offered me a zero hours contract instead. I declined.
I am very lucky that my husband's salary is enough for us to live on now that we are resigned to never holidaying again and foregoing our plans to move home next year.

Cook and cleaner by default
September 23, 2020

Being a woman sharing a flat with two men (we're all in our late 20s) during lockdown is hard. All the typical discrepancies in taking responsibility for household chores are magnified exponentially week after week. Somehow I always ended up doing more of the cleaning, cooking and food shopping than my cohabitants. It was also me who would regularly disinfect the door handles, light switches, surfaces, and ensured that there was enough hand gel and disinfectant wipes and masks for everyone. I didn't enjoy acting like their mum, but my alternative would have been to accept dirty dishes, a dirty toilet, mostly fast food, and a greater transmission risk. I would sometimes ask them to help, then they would help for a day or so and then things would get back into their old rhythm. I can't wait for the day that men realise the amount of unpaid labour they put on women by default and start taking some responsibility.

Full time working single Mum of 2 in Edinburgh
September 23, 2020

My life is always one big juggle between work and caring for my children, I am also studying towards a Masters but when lockdown came and the kids were home schooling on top of that I was literally working around the clock. My kids are young and my eldest is autistic so they both need a lot of care and attention and support for their learning and my work didn't stop. I work in a University so I had a full marking workload and tight deadlines.

We got into a routine, my eldest daughter has disordered sleep and so wakes around 5am, we would go for our walk early and then get back and start their home schooling, I usually had a couple of online classes or meetings so the kids would go and play for a while. Most of my colleagues were understanding when they were noisy or interrupted but some were not and made undermining comments. It was full on all day trying to get the kids through their work, making sure they were fed, washed and given sufficient attention.

When they got to bed I would hit the laptop and begin marking and my own research work often from 7.30/8pm- 11pm/midnight at this point I would force myself to bed as I knew I would only have a few hours before it all began again. I felt under enormous pressure to get my work done and guilty for leaving it incomplete at the end of the day.

I found it very difficult to fit in self care, even basics like showering (I know gross!). One of the biggest challenges as well was that I am normally very active and run 5k everyday to get to work and 10k at the weekend. Under lockdown restrictions I could not leave my children at all and my activity dropped to almost nil. I have gained weight and lost fitness.

It was very difficult for my autistic daughter who often took it out on the wee one who became very clingy to me and a bit withdrawn.
I was awaiting a contract extension which came in at the very last minute and this was so stressful as without a job we would be in dire straits. I also have had to take an interruption from my studies as it all became too much.

I absolutely cracked at one point and called social work telling them I could not cope, they said I was doing fine. I started crying uncontrollably on the phone, not something that I ever want my kids to see. They said they would conduct an assessment of our circumstances but this can't be done under covid restrictions. I have heard nothing in months.

Shopping was also a challenge, my daughter does not cope well with shops at the best of times and I really struggled to get delivery slots. We were not considered a priority despite me being a single parent and my daughters' disability.

eu immigrant sex worker
September 23, 2020

My mental health has been steadily planning since late March. Part of it is my fault - I hilariously fired my therapist in late February because I felt like I had dealt with all the issues I was seeing him for, and then the pandemic happened.
I came to Scotland a few years ago in part because it was a very convenient way to cut down time spent with my abusive family of origin, who are still in my home country, and also in part because my home country simply does not hire young women. Here I can support myself through my sex work, well enough to not have to rely on my parents for funds. Of course the pandemic wrecked my financial stability and my ability to work, and the government plan didn't plan any relief for people like me (not registered as self employed, no access to public funds). The two hardship funds (to which the government did not contribute) helped, those few hundred pounds were lifesaving in keeping a roof over my head, but not enough to make me comfortable, and I had to go back to work in May.
I've managed to not need to ask for money from my family. But all my friends, and my partner, here are more financially secure with me - they either still live with family, or family or state funds are covering their living expenses. I'm not upset at them for simply not having to worry about homelessness and starvation (we're in our 20s, I'm the weird one for not relying on my family), but I do wish they were more mindful of my situation when suggesting activities to do to pass the time - I wish my need for company and contact didn't need to come second to my need to pay my bills, but that's what it is.
And now the Scottish government is planning to criminalize sex work, which will be the cherry on top of this terrible cake.

I am alone in a foreign country and my survival depends on whether or not enough middle aged men are reckless enough to bend (not break) covid restrictions to come and pay me. These same men are highly unlikely to have been particularly strict with their restrictions, so I've had to make my peace with the knowledge that I will catch covid, and I'm not the most fit of people, so I fully expect long term consequences from it. At least I won't pass it on to anyone.

FtmL
September 23, 2020

I'm currently pregnant with my first baby - found out in May as lockdown was being eased. Prior to that, lockdown was okay. My husband and I could and were already working from home, we'd not long bought our house that had a garden so things were okay.

Being pregnant and re-entering lockdown situations is awful. I relapsed into my eating disorder and lost a stone prior to the pregnancy but the relapse is still active and I've gained very little weight. I have some cpn support from the west of Scotland perinatal mental health service but they can't offer me as much because of face to face restrictions. Husband has been able to attend scans but not emergency appointments or routine ones. What will happen at birth is a mystery and women are being stripped of choice - little to no option for home or water births, births that are highly medical and full of interventions, rushed to when giving birth then rushed out the door. I have very little trust my birth will be a positive experience and believe I will become very unwell afterwards due to trauma.

I've also faced redundancy from an employer who handed the lockdown very badly - arrogance lead to no furlough of staff while also saying oh we won't do redundancies either. It ended up being a paper exercise to get rid of certain other staff members but it was still stressful to be put in a redundancy pool.

All in, I'm an anxious mess. My ED is back, my BPD symptoms are heightened despite two years of no symptoms at all and I feel a distinct pressure to comply as a good girl and not push for the birth experience i want to protect my own body and mind.

Mother of 1
June 18, 2020

Hello Mums,

I'm a working women who is working in renowned IT firm. Since my daughter was just 4 months and I'm working till now as she is now 7 year. Over the years I thought things will become better but it acts like a slow poison and is rupturing my relations with my kid and husband. I have faced many challenges raising her. Though my in-laws are there to take care of her, we don't have a healthy relationship.

My daughter's main challenges are:
1. Food and eating problems
2. Watching excessive mobile and TV
3. Not doing homework and doesn't want to study and write home work and during Covid 19 - she has totally lost interest in studies.
4 .Don't listen to parents or grand parents.

I'm losing love and respect from my husband's side and from in-laws side due to work schedules and styles.Yes definitely I'm helping my family through my earnings but I'm losing happiness, love, care, attention and rupturing relationship with my kid.

What is the use of working then? My parents who are very hard work and belongs to middle class family don't let me lose job.

Can anyone suggest me what is the right thing to do at this point.

Shall I leave my job during covid 19 period? As many who want jobs are not having them. And I have job but I'm not happy .

Thanks

Agency Worker who has had coronavirus
May 26, 2020

I'm in precarious work, which fortunately can be done from home, and have been since before lockdown.

In mid-March, my husband and I started to feel ill with coronavirus symptoms over a weekend and I was told by the agency I work for that I was eligible for SSP from day one only if I evidenced my contact with 111...? So I took a screenshot of my call from my mobile?

At the end of March, I was told by the agency that my post was no longer required as the employer was halting all normal activity, but two days later I was called by the employer directly to ask me to come back and assist with Covid response.

While this was ongoing, I was recovering from covid but had to have antibiotics delivered for a chest infection. My husband, meanwhile, took much longer to recover which we now understand is the case with some, with an almost malarial relapse effect happening every other week for months. This meant that I had to take on most of the cleaning and meal prep and emotional labour of contacting/updating family.

A few more weeks on, we are physically doing better, but we can both feel our mental health sliding. I am coping with my clinical anxiety and depression by trying to leave the house once a day, even if it's just to sit on the grass outside, and eat fruits and vegetables but I don't manage it every day.

Sometimes I hope the lockdown end comes quickly but then I know my work depends on it at the moment and I feel anxious about trying to find another job. I try to stay positive and remind myself that we have been luckier than a lot of people.

Mother 2 under 5, full-time worker and MSc student
May 26, 2020

I began to have concerns about my commute in early March and was fortunate to be able to work from home even before lockdown was announced. Once the schools and nurseries closed, I was at home, working, studying and caring for two very small children alone. I naively thought I would home-school, that lasted an hour. My husband did not get asked to work from home for another 2 weeks, despite my begging him to force his employers hand - they were prioritising based on resources and his role in providing childcare was not high on the list. We now both work from home but he insists his employer is not overly lenient or understanding of his role as a parent, meaning I inevitably deal with the children more throughout the day. I am desperate for one of us to be furloughed, thankful we are financially able to weather that, but neither of us understand our rights and are worried the impact that may have should either position become untenable. He is in the private sector so his role is not as secure as my own. I am very concerned about the changes in my sons behaviour, he is not as emotionally robust and is quick to get upset. I find it painful as a mother for my children to see us both at home, yet we are invariably connected to a device and trying to distract, not engage them. This is not a nice place for anyone and it has went on so long it is now creating anxiety about transitioning out of it.

Furloughed worker, living in Glasgow
May 26, 2020

I work full-time and our boss closed the office before lockdown began, so I was working from home for a month or so before being furloughed. Furloughing though really good (my employer makes up the 20% so I get my normal salary) made me feel expendable especially as all the managers were kept on. I think I'm being unfurloughed soon which is good, but I'll still need to work from home. I'm really missing my family, parents, brothers and really missing nieces and nephews. I also really miss my friends and getting out in the countryside away from the city. I live with my husband and am finding I am doing more housework, he is doing some but not a lot, however furlough has meant that I am doing lots of tidying as I usually don't get the time for that. One way that the virus has really impacted me is the short term distribution of medication - I'm on a few medications for life and these are only issued for two months at a time (generally always and not just COVID-19 related - but there were shortages due to COVID and people panicking) I ended up without one of my main ones for about a month at the start of lockdown as I had been given the wrong brand which I react to badly so had to go without.The health symptoms I suffer without correct medication are fatigue, loss of motivation, brain fog and pain (not great). I couldn't get to speak to my GP as all calls are being triaged by the reception staff, who referred me to the pharmacist, who did manage to get me more meds - but this is really precarious. I'm back to being stable on my meds for now, but I think I'm being unfurloughed next week and what if I have another issue with medication and find it hard to work? Working from home is somehow more challenging and tiring than going into an office. Food seems to be more expensive and virtually all of my salary is going on food, however due to not having to buy my lunch and pay for transport, my budgeting is a bit better and I now usually have a wee bit of money at the end of the month.

Mother of 2 (4&7), full time student, part time research assistant, part time student support worker, volunteer Rape crisis worker, volunteer community councillor
April 29, 2020

My partner works in secondary services in the NHS in psychology and so doesn’t have much of a role during lockdown however the NHS also insists that as I am not a key worker I am responsible for the full time care (and schooling) of our children. So many plates to spin that I’m exhausted and a little broken.

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