Northern Ireland

'Action plan needed' to address impact of pandemic on women

Manal Mahdi speaking to the Women's Parliament in the assembly chamber about racial justice and intersectionality. Picture by Michael Cooper
Manal Mahdi speaking to the Women's Parliament in the assembly chamber about racial justice and intersectionality. Picture by Michael Cooper Manal Mahdi speaking to the Women's Parliament in the assembly chamber about racial justice and intersectionality. Picture by Michael Cooper

THE Women's Parliament has called for an action plan to address the disproportionate economic and social impact of the Covid pandemic on women.

Women from community organisations and other groups, who helped plan the parliament held in the assembly chamber yesterday, said the pandemic had hit women hardest.

Speakers included Stephanie Waite from Greenway Women’s Centre in Belfast and Joanne Sansome from Disability NI.

Ms Waite said some of the women she spoke to had struggled to buy food and clothes for their children due to the pandemic and the rising cost of living.

"The fear, the shame, the embarrassment of using food banks, asking people for help, borrowing money from anybody... it's all there," she said.

The parliament asked Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to work with her colleagues in government to formulate an action plan to help women.

Ms Hargey said she appreciated the integral role that women play in communities.

"These inequalities existed before the pandemic. They've certainly been exacerbated by it," she said.

She said "significant work" had begun to address issues the women had raised, including providing £10 million in Covid recovery funding to help women learn new skills.

The parliament was hosted by assembly speaker Alex Maskey ahead of International Women’s Day on Tuesday.

"The assembly makes laws for all our citizens and it is essential that everyone can have their say on the laws and policies that impact them," he said.

"This event enables participants to do that, and it is also a very fitting way for the assembly to mark International Women’s Day."

Parliament Buildings will be lit in purple on Tuesday evening to highlight International Women’s Day.