Charlene LambertOver the past month, we have all grasped firsthand, and likely for the first time, how suddenly and completely a pandemic virus can turn our lives inside out and upside down. Our hearts go out to those of you who may have become ill, and we hope that you are recovering by now. If you have lost friends or loved ones because of the Covid-19 virus, we are thinking of you in this difficult period.

We also want to recognize the men and women from the brilliant medical teams in our hospitals, the pharmacists, technicians, the police, ambulance and other first responders, the supermarket employees, the drivers bringing the food to our shops and homes, the teachers who are giving their courses online, and the many others who are caring for us and ensuring that we have food to eat, and essential products and services to keeping our economy and lives going on. Thank you all for your amazing, non-stop support!

Effects on women

March 2020 was slated to be a special celebration worldwide, and particularly at the UN in New York, of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the groundbreaking manifesto in support of worldwide gender equality. This long-awaited celebration was instead drastically cut back, as the coronavirus struck progressively around the world, and we all had to quickly adapt to the new norms.

With one month’s perspective, we can now look back and better understand the side effects that the virus has had. What has become apparent is that worldwide, although more men appear to be dying as a result of the disease, women’s health has also been adversely affected, including because of reallocation of resources and priorities. Furthermore, according to the UN’s recently issued Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Women, “…the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities…and amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.” The report states that 70% of the health caregivers globally are women, who are also more likely to be on the front line. In the case of Italy, 66% of the female healthcare workers got the coronavirus, while in Spain, it was 72%! Women are also the majority of health facility staff, including cleaners, launderers and catering, and, as such, may have more exposure to the virus.

With children out of school and elderly who may be requiring support, unpaid care work has also increased, which is often the primary responsibility of women. Our own businesses may be suffering, though hopefully as the economy slowly returns to normal, we will be able to resume our work. Some support programmes are being offered in the Netherlands, for which we may need to apply.

The situation is worse in developing countries, where washing hands regularly with clean water may not even be an option and where social interactions, on which workers in the informal economy depend, are severely restricted. Many of these people are already living on the edge as it is, with women 25% more likely to be living in extreme poverty.

Through all of this, we also have to begin thinking about the economic recovery measures and how we as women entrepreneurs, will be affected. One of the clearest lessons emerging from the pandemic, according to the UN report, is that we must aim to build more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies. Their conclusion is that:

“ Putting women and girls at the center of the economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all, support a more rapid recovery, and place us back on a footing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Read the entire document

Interactive workshop

WBII continues to highlight women entrepreneurs as the centre of our activities. This Thursday, from 8:30 – 10:00 p.m. WBII Advisory Board member, Sinéad Hewson, is facilitating a second free members only interactive online workshop designed to help WBII members recalibrate their businesses and work out what’s next. Sinéad maintains that “virtual or hybrid business structures will become the new norm for all organisations for at least the next year”.

The second session’s topic is: My Business Is ****** What Now? Please join us! I attended the first session, which was excellent! A huge thanks to Sinead for offering us this excellent programme!

The WBII Board is always looking for the best ways possible to support our members, even though during this period, we cannot be physically together. Please share your thoughts and ideas with us as together we work through the coming months. Stay safe, and take good care.