Have all women been ‘plagued’ – or is it time for York International Women’s Week to admit the politics of it all?

Rosie participated in a panel event for International Women’s Week last Sunday 14th March dubbed ‘Women in a time of Plague.’

It was hosted by Elly Fiorentini from BBC Radio York and the other panel members were Heworth Councillor Anna Perrett and former Conservative candidate, Fabia Tate.

Despite it being tricky to participate on this day, being Mothering Sunday with a son of 10 at home, Rosie kept her commitment to attend based on her concerns around key themes which she feels the pandemic has exacerbated:

  • Social isolation, loneliness
  • We not all women together, experiencing the same.
  • Financial and Food insecurities
  • Anxiety, stress, mental health.
  • Work changes / overload / other pressures in professional life.
  • Education reform – one size doesn’t fit all.
  • Childcare vs. work

In response to a question about whether ‘wages for housework’ should be introduced, Rosie said this was an issue she had continually battled with since having her son at 27, coming to the conclusion that

“It is an emotional battle and if it didn’t have to be a financial one, then there’s your answer.  However, wages for housework should not be confused with a Universal Basic Income which I am a big supporter of such a renewed, simplified social security system instead, I am completely opposed to benefit caps and the existing punitive welfare system.”

EXTRA! Listen to Rosie giving a 20-sec explanation of UBI in the Green part’s political broadcast

In answer to the ‘ice-breaker’ question, here is Rosie’s personal testimony on how the pandemic has affected her household:

“Fortunately I have had no health issues, no covid-scares, no deaths in my family. We are all safe and well. I don’t work in healthcare or education but have been classed as a key-worker 2 days a week when working at my surplus food redistribution project, Planet Food, part of The Real Junk Food Project: York. Being able to send my son to school on Thursdays when we open to the public has meant I could carry on managing the project but I have experienced the stress and confusion around having to constantly re-organisation of the project retail/hospitality functions. It is has been a big responsibility for maintaining volunteers and customers trust that we are working safely.

As a single mum I was pretty lonely and angry at times during the first 4 months of total lock-down. At times I felt my son was coping much better than I was since he was quite happy really at home all the time, no pressures on him and lots of quality time with mum! This made me feel guiltier at wanting adult company and a break! Easter alone was pretty hard but I made the day as fun for him as I could.

As June came round when his dad would usually visit (he lives 300 miles away) I was the one that pushed to make it happen as I knew movement between parents had always been allowed and but it obviously hadn’t occurred to his dad! We made arrangements and I made the 500 mile return trip to Southampton airport on the hottest day of the year, crying and feeling free all at once. I’d sent him away yet I instantly cursed myself for doing it and realised I’d probably miss him more than he’d miss me! I resolved to never do that again which led to me getting a tattoo in his honour,!

Professionally, lock-downs working from home and home-schooling has been a strain and forced a realignment of priorities. I’ve been less worried about his lack of formal education than I have been continually worried about my diminished productivity. But I’ve also had my beliefs in how education should be different – definitely not stuck on screens –  reaffirmed because if you can let your kids learn through play and gain more life or soft skills rather than have the constant stress of conformity and national curriculums – which I fully concede is not a luxury all families can manage  – but the questions around what is formal education for vs. childcare have certainly been raised!

Last but not least, I can safely say I’ve not yet hidden behind a zoom camera still wearing my pyjamas BUT, I have given up trying to make my son brush his unruly hair every day and I wasn’t going to put him through the pain.. so he’s now getting dreadlocks like me!

Priorities do change.. whether or not there’s a pandemic. I have changed who I am because my priorities have changed.”

Further questions from the public included:

  • As women take on even more of the unpaid work in society, has the impact of covid sent women back to the 1950s, turning back time on feminism?
  • In light of the dreadful scenes at Clapham Common last night and the fact that women know all too well what it’s like to fear walking the streets alone even years after the original Reclaim the Night marches, how can you as politicians help to tackle endemic sexism on the streets of York and in everyday life?
  • Women have been disproportionately hit financially by the pandemic – as pensioners, working people, mothers and carers – how can you as local politicians work to ensure that gender-sensitive approaches are included in the city’s economic recovery plans?
  • Could the recording be sent to the Lib Dem council leaders because (although the event’s not political, right?), they should take note of a lot of what’s been said.

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