COVID-19 can set women back an entire generation if the Government fails to address sexual violence and put systems in place to help professional women juggle their many responsibilities. So said Senator Jayanti Lutchmiedial during a service at the Susamachar Presbyterian Church on Sunday held in celebration of International Womens’ Day.
Lutchmiedial said the pandemic had unearthed many inequalities, making women more vulnerable.
“Women and girls are at increasing risk of gender-based violence, losing formal or informal employment and limited access to online schooling. With girls out of school, they could be at greater risk of early marriage, sexual abuse or even forced labour,” she said.
She called for policies to be developed to help women.
“The Government must have dialogue with employers to ensure that parents receive reasonable time off to collect assignments for their children. A single working mother reported that she was threatened with being fired for taking time to go to a primary school to receive her child’s assignments,” she said.
She also called for a new form of labour inspection machinery, saying this was needed to supervise the advent of working from home.
“Isolation and loneliness have also been flagged as psychological variables arising and demanding greater employee assistance strategies and counselling services,” she noted. Jayanti also said the Church had a role to play in providing support.
She said, “The cries of young female victims in the face of sexual attacks and violence and the horrific realities of the day means that the church has a responsibility to work with law enforcement and the NGO community to build awareness and protect our girls and women and this includes educating our boys.”
Lutchmiedial praised the Presbyterian Church saying Presbyterian schools copped 39 per cent of all scholarships given this year.
“We are pleased with the performance of our boy schools as we hope our educational endeavours would reach beyond providing the foundation of a degree and lead to a profession, but would mould young men of substance who can rise above the culture of toxic masculinity that is still perpetuated at an unacceptable level,” she said.
She noted that the Church must be a force of change.
“The church must always see itself as an important advocate in relation to important issues…and must not shy away from issues like the urgency to legalise pepper spray and other non lethal devices,” she added.
She also called on women to support each other saying, “Women are notoriously critical, jealous and unsupportive at times of the successes of other women and use physical attractiveness to gain a ‘one-up’ over another woman.”
She said women must never use gender conveniently to make excuses for shortcomings, or to gain advantage.
“We cannot on one hand cry out for respect and to be treated with dignity when we do not respect ourselves, each other and those around us,” she added.