COVID-19 and the Impact on Women

5 May 2020 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 14 May 2020

In this, the first in a series of 'Insight and Impact' articles,featuring organisations from across the voluntary and community sector,  we explore the impact of the  pandemic on women.

Key to the work of NICVAs Policy and Public Affairs Team at this time is listening to the sector ; gathering policy insight and information as to the impact of COVID-19  pandemic  on their organisations and those they serve; and supporting their key messaging and asks to government and others.

Via our Public Affairs Forum we shall be exploring how as a sector we can  work together collectively to inform and influence public policy, decision making and debate in this ‘new environment’ and beyond. Via this Forum we are keen to support members in amplifying their policy insight and key messaging to government and others at this time.

The impact of the crisis is far-reaching, with concerns across community and voluntary organisations that it is exacerbating existing gaps and inequalities in policy and provision,  already hard felt by individuals and across communities.

In this article , Public Affairs Forum member, Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist at the  Womens Resource Development Agency's (WRDA), and Chair of The Women’s Policy Group NI highlights the impact of COVID-19 on Women.

What are some of your key concerns as to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women?

It is clear from a global perspective that COVID-19 is having an extremely negative impact on women’s safety, employment, health, finances and more.

The ongoing pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge across society in Northern Ireland. It has put in sharp focus the value and importance of care work, paid and unpaid, and highlighted the essential nature of often precarious and almost always low paid retail work. Women undertake the majority of this work and this crisis has further highlighted the gender-segregated nature of the workforce in Northern Ireland, as women constitute over 70% of health and social care staff, 70% of workers ineligible for Statutory Sick Pay and 85% of part-time workers. Women will unfortunately bear the brunt of this crisis; economically, socially and in terms of health.

In light of these issues, what are the womens sectors key asks of government and others at this time?

The current crisis affects men and women differently, and in many cases deepens the inequalities women experience on an everyday basis[1]. This developing crisis has however put a number of issues in sharp relief for urgent emergency action.

The Women’s Policy Group NI  is calling on decision makers across Northern Ireland to take action to ensure a gender sensitive crisis response.

Immediate action is needed to:

  • Develop an inter-departmental response to the sharp rise in domestic violence, being evidenced as result of the pandemic[2],
  • Create Gender balanced COVID-19 taskforces and working groups, crucially with representation from women’s sector groups to ensure a gender lens to all actions,
  • Protect the working rights of women in low-paid and precarious work on the frontline,
  • Order personal protective equipment (PPE) that adequately fits and thus helps better protect women in caring and frontline roles,
  • Ensure ongoing access to sexual and reproductive health services for women, including immediate access to contraception,
  • Introduce telemedicine for abortion services to prevent women having to unnecessarily travel,
  • Provide access to support services and safe shelter for particularly vulnerable groups including homeless women, women with insecure immigration status and sex workers, in line with provision in England, Scotland and Wales,
  • Ensure adequate childcare provision for all key workers,
  • Increase support for those with caring responsibilities, including access to appropriate advice and where required to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • Provide significant support for low-income families through reforms to universal credit.

Further action is needed to:

  • Ensure women do not lose entitlement to statutory maternity pay,
  • Provide government guidelines for the protection of pregnant workers,
  • Protect Black and minority ethnic and migrant workers from racial profiling by immigration officers,
  • Support the perinatal mental health of women facing drastically changing birthing plans,
  • Guarantee the same levels of healthcare for disabled women as able-bodied individuals,
  • Provide adequate access to essential hormonal healthcare and other services for trans individuals.

How has the women’s sector been working to inform and influence public policy, decision making and debate in regard to the impact of COVID-19?

The Women’s Policy Group NI has been lobbying extensively on these issues to MLAs, Ministers, MPs and relevant committees. You can read our statements here:

Finally, the Women’s Regional Consortium is trying to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the women’s sector and individual women. You can complete the survey for women’s groups and organisations here and the survey for individual women here. You can keep up-to-date on these issues by subscribing to the COVID-19 newsletters from the WRC and WRDA here.

Huge thanks to Rachel for taking the time to highlight these issues. For any questions or queries on women and COVID-19, please contact Rachel at [email protected]

Interested in our Public Affairs Forum?

Membership of the Public Affairs Forum is open to all NICVA Members. If you are interested in participating, please contact:  [email protected]  for further details and information.

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.


[1] Women’s Policy Group NI Election Manifesto 2019:

[2] Women’s Aid Sector Statement on Covid-19, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales:'s picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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