Sunday 14 March 2021

Let us renew our vow that all of us to make the world fairer, safer and better for women

This week began with International Women’s Day and will end with many of us celebrating Mothering Sunday.


It was prescient last year of the United Nations to report how “globally, women make up the majority of workers in the health and social sector”. In the UK, women are 70% of the healthcare workforce as well forming the backbone of third sector organisations and volunteering operations, such as running food banks and checking in on neighbours.


That’s as true in H&F as it is nationally. The Smile Brigade, run by Monique Newton, is just one of so many volunteer-led initiatives in the borough that have literally helped save lives. When the pandemic hit, the Smile Brigade had 20 volunteers running food kitchens for 70 clients. That swelled to 1,100 clients and 457 volunteers, delivering hot food and care packages directly to the homes of those who needed them.


This week the Office for National Statistics confirmed what many of us know, that women have borne a disproportionate burden of the pandemic and lockdown. They have spent more time on unpaid childcare and housework than men, they’ve done the lion’s share of home schooling and rates of violence towards women have rocketed, as the appalling events of this week remind us. And, as in every economic crisis, women over the past year have been at greater risk of losing their jobs or of having their wages cut or frozen.


To put this in a wider context, last year’s Marmot Report on health inequalities revealed that life expectancy for women living in our poorest communities has declined over the past decade, for the first time in a century. As Professor Marmot said: "If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving."


The International Monetary Fund has pointed out why society as a whole gains if we make the world fairer for women. It published research underlining how adding one more woman to a company’s management structure is associated with a boost in returns of up to 13%. Picking up on this theme, to mark International Women’s Day three years ago, Christine Lagarde, the first woman president of the IMF, said: “It’s just a no-brainer that economies would grow, productivity would improve, and we would have more stability.”


So this Sunday, as we thank our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, following a year when so many women have led the fight against the pandemic - publicly and in the home - let’s also renew our vow to make the world a fairer, safer, better place for all women – the type of world fit for our daughters to inherit.


Happy Mother’s Day