Inequality is not new, but the widening gap and increased power disparities are deeply troubling, says Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director Women for Women International UK.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Arundhati Roy
If there has been one theme to sum up the past three months since coronavirus entered our daily life, it would be uncertainty. Uncertainty about the present; how do we best protect ourselves and our loved ones from this virulent disease? Uncertainty about the future; when will the lockdown end, when will we be able to go back to work in our office, when will we be able to hug loved ones again without fear of passing on the virus? But there is one certainty – we do not want to go back to ‘normal’.
The pre-pandemic world was not equal, and this inequality has been magnified by the crisis of coronavirus. Women are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, taking on even more unpaid care work, suffering from reduced access to critical services, and trapped in violent homes. A report by the UK government shows a significant disparity of risk of death from coronavirus, with death rates highest among people of Black and Asian ethnic groups, as a result of structural discrimination and systemic inequality.
This inequality is not new, but the widening gap and increased power disparities are deeply troubling. We must not leave the limited progress we have made hanging in the balance.
Instead, we should embrace the uncertainty created by the pandemic as a window of opportunity for creating change and making our world kinder, fairer and more resilient. We are facing an unmissable opportunity to correct deep-rooted injustices, reimagine power dynamics, and build a more inclusive, equal and sustainable world where everyone’s voice is visible and valued.
Together, we have significant work to do to rebuild our society after this crisis. The question is, what do we want this recovery to look like? To help answer this question, Women for Women International is hosting #SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0 – an online festival where we will focus on our shared future and develop a toolkit for action.
We’re bringing together more than 20 incredible women activists and changemakers, representing a truly global women’s movement that everyone can be a part of. It is time to stand up, speak out and take action. We all have the power to change the world.
The message of #SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0 is that there is a role for each and every one of us to play in changing the world, and it starts with a single step. Founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi will open the festival in conversation with Annie Lennox, talking about how they took that first step, and what happened next.
To stay resilient for the challenges ahead we need to take care of our minds and bodies, so we have a session on building mental health resilience during a global crisis with Jayne Hardy, founder of The Blurt Foundation. There’s the opportunity to join a panel discussion with writers Yomi Adegoke, Tahmina Begum and Christina Lamb discussing stepping out of your comfort zone to embrace uncertainty.
There are many more inspirational women ready to share their advice and learnings with you – visit womenforwomen.org.uk/sheinspiresmelive for more details.
I hope you will join us on 20th June for #SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0 – let’s get energised to transform our world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director Women for Women International UK
Tickets for #SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0 cost £20 (£10 concessions) and are available from womenforwomen.org.uk/sheinspiresmelive