The meaning of COVID-19 for women


Happy Women’s month

What does it mean to be a woman? That is the question I pondered on before attempting to tackle what it means to be a woman now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A quick internet search of what it means to be a woman resulted in a couple of sites and online articles that outlined hormones, anatomy, the brain, and science. How could it be that such an incredible being is blatantly consolidated into this bland classification that barely scratches the surface of what a woman really is?

That was when it dawned on me that very few people understand what a woman really is; therefore, a lot of people cannot begin to fathom the heavy lifting we have been doing throughout our existence – heaviness that has gotten heavier over the years, and almost unbearable now during this new normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only stopped the whole world in its tracks, it has forced everyone into survival mode. We are now required to adhere to a new way of life to survive and combat the spread of the virus – and while the rules apply to everyone, women bear the brunt of this virus more than anyone else. Here is how:

According to a report published by the World Economic Forum in May of 2020, women make up 70% of all health and social services (essential services) globally. This means that more than anyone, women will be in the line of duty, and so more susceptible to contracting this virus.  These are the same women who also make-up the majority of caregivers in the world. Although essential in the work and home front, women are not celebrated enough!

We have female doctors and nurses expected to show up for the rest of us despite the severity of where the world finds itself. How are they coping? How are they dealing with the pressure and fear of putting their countries first and their families second? You know what these women are? They are heroes and leaders, rising to the occasion at the risk of their own lives and that of their families. 

Moreover, the World Economic Forum also reported a spike in domestic, sexual and gender-based violence during this time of crisis. In South Africa alone, the first week of hard lockdown saw well over 80 000 gender-based violence cases being reported – this before a few more weeks of the lockdown.

It has therefore become apparent that women are affected by the virus more than everyone else; yet, they still and must become warriors in the global effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus, keep economies at work and keep families safe – all while trying to survive and/or escape gender based violence. We can safely say that women are the only people affected by this pandemic to this extreme degree, and still lead and work in order for the world to overcome this.

This is therefore a letter of gratitude to the many women who get up to protect and serve our people as well as save our economies every day. It is in no way an easy job. It is taxing, exhausting and thankless.

As a woman myself, I find myself in introspection of our role in society more often lately. It has become increasingly important for me to recognise the leadership of women and to demand, as far and as loudly as I can, that more women should occupy official and critical positions of leadership and be rewarded for their contributions to society. More women should have the opportunity, in an official capacity, to govern communities, companies and countries because, as it has been revealed by this pandemic, women are the people who are at the head of the table when it comes to protecting and caring for lives.

I implore women to take the driver’s seat and lead. Furthermore, I implore women to give and take reward for their contributions, now in this uncertainty created by COVID-19, and beyond.

If there was ever a question to it, this pandemic has exposed with certainty women’s abilities, competency, compassion, and creativity required to lead a people. This time, more than any other has exposed the world to our inherent potential; and it is important for women to take this opportunity and lead the world into a better tomorrow.

I consider this an opportunity to surface every women’s bravery and fortitude. Let this recognition not only be reserved and exclusively saved and consigned to women’s day. The things that women overcome need to be celebrated because they keep on flourishing despite everything.

For career women, the future is urgently advancing in both their personal and work lives; now is the time for them to reimagine their lives, aspirations and ultimately adjust themselves to the charge that is ahead. However, this demand is not exclusively for career women, every woman needs to forge her way forward and reimagine her legacy. None of the things we go up against take a break, and neither should we. No woman should rest in the pursuit for excellence.

The future has never been brighter for women as it is at this juncture, where everyone is redefining the meaning of life, figuring out their new role in society and introspecting that we should reinvent what it means to be a woman.

May this women’s month be a time of deep introspection, planning and recognition of our efforts as women, and our abilities to lead the world into better possibilities.

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘she doesn’t have what it takes’, they will say, ‘women don’t have what it takes’. – Clare Boothe Luce


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