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On the frontlines: Under-represented women among hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions

April 16, 2021

As the federal government plans for a #FeministRecovery, under-represented women in particular, are among the hardest hit from COVID-19.

These women need to be included in any plan to rebuild the economy, said Marie-Pier Baril, press secretary for Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef. Plans for the recovery are expected to be part of the first federal budget in two years. It will be presented on April 19 by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“They have faced job losses, the reduction in hours worked, over-representation in frontline work and the additional burden of unpaid care work at home,” Brail said.

“Women make up a high portion of frontline workers,” Statistics Canada says.

This especially true in education where, according to Statistics Canada, about 75 per cent of educators in the public school sector are women based on numbers from 2018-19.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario said that the percentage of women in its ranks has been consistent since the inception of the organization in 1998.

In 1918, the Federation of Women Teachers’ Association of Ontario was formed aiming to “promote the professional and financial status of women teachers.”

It wasn’t until 1998, 90 years later, when the Women Teachers’ Association of Ontario merged with the Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation to form the current Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario(EFTO).

Education is also happening at home, Statistics Canada says. In June 2020, approximately 64 per cent of women reported they were the parent mostly responsible for homeschooling.

The burdens women face educating children and coping with limited resources is made heavier because the home may not be safe, says Giulia Carpenter, executive director of Sudbury Women’s Centre.

“That is not always the case for a lot of our clients at home with their abusers.”

The pandemic is adding to that because “one major barrier is the isolation piece, now the women are in isolation with a perpetrator,” said Sirine Morra, case manage for the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association.

Morra says many women lack access to the resources they need to live securely.

These tools are helpful but pandemic concerns remain.

“If someone wants to leave a DV situation there’s less beds available in shelters because they need to maintain the social distancing…” Morra said.

Some situations Morra encounters are unsafe for women and CIWA helps as much as possible. Pandemic demands and social distancing makes access to resources and communication a challenge. (Editor’s note: Anyone in danger in Ontario should call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, toll-free, for immediate assistance: 1-866-863-0511.)

The battle continues outside the home too. Women looking for work to escape their homes and feed their families are battling a rising unemployment rate.

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