This is an excerpt from WRDA Briefing on TEO Engagement with the Women’s Sector and TEO Covid-19 Recovery Plan

The Women’s Policy Group COVID-19 Feminist Recovery Plan provides a comprehensive evidence base which illuminates the impact of the pandemic on women in Northern Ireland and offers recommendations for addressing this impact. By comparing the WPG Feminist Recovery Plan with TEO’s ‘Building Forward: Consolidated COVID-19 Recovery Plan,’ it is clear that significant gaps exist in TEO’s Recovery Plan, in terms of recovery planning to address the impact of the pandemic on women.

Within the 38-page document, TEO make seven references to ‘women,’ one reference to ‘gender’ and one reference to ‘childcare.’ TEO acknowledge that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on marginalised groups such as women, young people, older people and low-paid workers. TEO also recognise that women have been particularly impacted with regards to employment and continue to be disadvantaged by the gender pay gap. In TEO’s Recovery Plan, there is also recognition given to the increased levels of domestic abuse against women during the pandemic.

TEO identify four ‘recovery accelerators,’ which are accompanied by three key areas of strategic intent, a set of priority activities and an action plan. One of these recovery accelerators is ‘tackling inequalities,’ and a number of commitments are made by TEO relating to reducing gender equality. TEO offer a number of strategies for addressing these inequalities. These include: increasing the availability of affordable and accessible childcare, implementing the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, delivering the Social Inclusion Strategies and “addressing vulnerabilities and promoting health and wellbeing along with supporting people in poverty.”

Women’s employment, domestic violence and childcare are a few of many significant areas of gender inequalities that exist in Northern Ireland, as identified in the WPG COVID-19 Feminist Recovery Plan. Other gender inequalities highlighted in the WPG Feminist Recovery Plan, which were not raised in the TEO Recovery Plan, include: gender segregated labour markets, the unequal distribution of unpaid care work, women’s poverty, the impact of austerity on women, cuts social security benefits, rural women, women’s mental health, climate justice, paramilitarism, waiting lists, abortion, hostile environments for ethnic minority women, trans healthcare, disabled women, women in prisons, misogynistic hate crime, honour-based abuse, rape culture, online abuse and the impact of Brexit on women’s rights. These inequalities existed before the pandemic but, in many cases, have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.

The WPG provide extensive evidence and recommendations relating to each of these key areas in the WPG Feminist Recovery Plan, none of which have been incorporated into TEO’s Recovery Plan or are recognised in TEO’s Equality Screening of the TEO Recovery Plan. Despite submitting the WPG COVID-19 Feminist Recovery Plan to TEO in response to their call for views on the TEO Recovery Plan, this evidence was not taken into account in the published TEO Recovery Plan. This is demonstrated by the limited references made to women, the vague strategic commitments and the lack of equality screening done on the Plan.