The Covid-19 pandemic presented the authorities with the opportunity to give care work the value it deserved, according to the Consultative Council on Women’s Rights.
The CCWR, which brings together women’s rights organisations and which advises the government on issues affecting women, issued a detailed position paper on the effect of the pandemic on women in Malta.
It noted that since a considerable number of women were essential workers and healthcare front liners, the pandemic meant that a number of male partners had to be more involved in childcare, elderly care, shopping and household chores.
“The relevant authorities can now use this situation to rethink and disrupt gender stereotypes, to change traditional discourse around caring, household chores, and/or teaching,” the council said.
But it added that it was also high time that a higher value was placed on caring, as it was necessary to support communities.
“Caring is often invisible work which is usually unpaid, and when it is paid, tends to be underpaid. Caring needs to be given more value in future economic projections and budgets,” the council said, whilst also proposing better salaries for care workers.
Pandemic proved women make capable leaders
The council also insisted that the gender-inclusive workplace policies and practices used during the pandemic – such as flexible work arrangements, family-friendly workplaces, remote working and teleworking – should be built upon. It argued that women’s careers have become casualties of the crisis, and that such measures were required to avoid a female talent drain.
But it also pointed out that the pandemic helped show the Maltese that women are capable of being good leaders, citing Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci as an example.
The council is proposing an awareness-raising campaign featuring women leaders like Gauci, together with effective measures aiming to give women a better chance to participate in decision-making and policy-making.
Pandemic reduced harassment, but increased domestic violence
The pandemic driving people into their homes had one benefit, according to the CCWR, which said that “for a short while women and girls could use and experience public space without the fear of being harassed or molested.”
But the lockdown also led to an increase of domestic violence, whilst financial insecurities meant that victims who are not financially independent will find it harder to leave their aggressors.
The CCWR insisted that domestic violence shelters and related support services were essential services during a pandemic, and that their accessibility needed to be expanded. It also recommended the use of hotels to expand available space should it be required.