Women are shut out of national decisions on coronavirus, though they are paying the biggest price

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Wednesday 10 June 2020 12:39
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Women are taking on greater caring responsibilities in lockdown
Women are taking on greater caring responsibilities in lockdown

The prime minister was rightly challenged over the lack of a gendered analysis and the absence of women’s voices in the UK’s Covid-19 response to date. This is also a global problem. New research from Care International’s Where are the Women? report found that although 70 per cent of the global health workforce are women, they only represent 24 per cent of national level decision-making committees.

Yet women and girls face specific problems. They bear the brunt of care giving; they are in lower paid and more precarious employment and they are at increased risk of gender-based violence. Black and minority ethnic women and girls, those of lower economic status, and those with disabilities are particularly impacted – in ways that are often compounded. A truly effective strategy starts from an understanding of these issues.

The UK government could put things right with equality and diversity targets on Covid-19 response bodies which are monitored and reported against and with gender and equalities impact assessments. Globally, humanitarian support should also target local women’s organisations, so that the support provided is better targeted at those most in need.

Helen Pankhurst and Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
London

What statues would we want?

In the debate following the pulling down of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, why is no one asking what statues should exist in addition to what should not?

Surely now would be the time to promote a national memorial to the victims of slavery. Bristol would be the ideal venue, perhaps in the centre of the city by the docks where Colston once stood. Berlin has a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, so why should Bristol not have a memorial to the victims of slavery?

Andrew Balfour
Witham, Essex

We must learn from our past

The statues and monuments we erect embody the virtues we sought to celebrate in that moment, act or individual. No person can be faultless, and so when it comes to deciding who is worthy we weigh up the value we perceive them as having put into, or taken out, of the world. Those whose scales tipped towards the positives found themselves immortalised in stone or metal, displayed as a reminder of the greater good they brought into the world.

Over time, our ethics have changed. What we value, or how much we value it, has shifted. Slowly, like the rust or erosion upon their dedications, the good these historical figures who our forebears deemed worthy enough to stand the test of time has corroded and been offset by the growing weight of the sins we perceive them as having done.

Edward Colston was in all likelihood a model citizen of the British Empire, a virtuous man by the standards of the society in his time. But what was once the “unpleasant business” of slavery in the 17th century has become a shameful stain upon our history and the man himself. Long before he was unceremoniously torn down, whether for right or wrong, popular debate in Bristol had tipped his scales back into the negative. His very presence is an unpleasant reminder of a darker past whose consequences reverberate all too powerfully into the present.

Now, like dominoes, many will surely follow, sweeping away these uncomfortable reminders. However, demands to tear down reminders of Britain’s unpalatable history will see protestors fulfil the charge they accuse their opposition of: whitewashing.

These physical manifestations of our past values are uncomfortable, eliciting discomfort because of the ethical dissonance we confront within our own society – both with our past and in our present. Their prominence is an outbreak of inflamed social moral discomfort, and rather than scratch them away and leave behind yet more scars, we must determine exactly the underlying causes of discomfort and apply precise treatments to heal this malady. Lancing them will deprive us of this opportunity to explore and discuss these divisions and heal as a wider community; further still, it will whitewash Britain’s history, which desperately needs to be exhumed and examined.

For the sake of all people – but particularly those impacted by the legacy of slavery – we must learn from our past so that we can inform our present and heal as we move into the future.

Jake Dewar
Aylesbury

Cecil Rhodes in his own words

The erection of statues to public figures is an endorsement of their values. Insisting on retaining the statues in the face of calls for their removal is a reaffirmation of that endorsement.

Let me offer two quotations by way of contribution to the current debate. First, Cecil Rhodes summed up what drove him in a bald assertion to the Cape parliament when he was prime minister: “I prefer land to n*****s.” Second, by way of an illustration of how he went about exercising that preference, in the course of his campaign against the Matabele in 1896 he instructed his officers that, even when Matabele warriors surrendered, “You should kill all you can, as it serves as a lesson to them when they talk things over at their fire at night.”

Enough said?

D Maughan Brown
York

Slave owners are still venerated on banknotes

If we are to remove public images which honour the perpetrators of slavery and the slave trade, we should consider what greater honour a country can bestow on someone than to picture him on their national currency.

I trust that all those pulling down statues in the US will take a moment to open their wallets. The American $1, $2 and $20 bills feature George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson respectively. All of these owned slaves while they were actually serving as US president.

Michael Clarke
Portishead

The slave trade is still with us

Slavery is still present on an industrial scale. It is a larger economy than narcotics.

A large part of modern slavery is the forcible abduction by criminals of school-age girls from eastern Europe. They work in western Europe as unpaid prostitutes. They are bought and sold. Many more are lured by the promise of some different employ and caged in a contract of invented debt. Men and women of all ages are imprisoned for menial work with all earnings going to criminal employers.

Where are the people choking the streets and shouting indignation or defiling the the fine possessions of the new slavers?

Tim Cox
Bern, Switzerland

Lockdown opportunities

I really feel for the mother-of-two Nicola Appleton as she describes her impossible balancing act as a longer term arrangement of childcare. Watching the UK authorities mismanage so many aspects of damage-limiting the pandemic is frustrating, to say the least – especially when you see how others countries are managing much better.

The issue of lack of places for childcare and in our schools is terrible, but Nicola laying it all at the door of the government assumes that no one can take initiative and open private facilities during this period. One person’s challenge can be another person’s business opportunity.

Scott Peacock
Stavanger, Norway

Trump has destroyed America’s global reputation

Trump is clearly realising that, following his disastrous handling of events so far in 2020, he is losing support and could well lose the November election. He is such a dangerously unstable character that he will do anything in the next five months to turn around his chances. Covid-19 and racial injustice have brought to the fore the sickness in the US and the very existence of the country as the leading democratic force in the world is now in doubt. At this moment I struggle to see a healthy prognosis for the patient.

John Dillon
Birmingham

Easing of lockdown is chaos for places of worship

While, as a practising Muslim, I welcome the idea of reopening places of worship, the process itself however is very vague, confusing and difficult to follow. It seems to me that the decision makers either do not know what they are doing or they are simply following orders themselves without analysing what does or doesn’t make sense.

They should figure out first if the disease is still threatening us. If it does, it is both futile and suicidal to loosen the leashes. It just doesn’t make any sense to reopen places of worship if we are still under the threat when we gather together.

Once we are sure the problem is behind us, then we should reopen our communities without putting people on leashes.

Abubakar N. Kasim
Toronto, Ontario

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