International Women’s Day – the value of the wellbeing work of women – by Dr Dee Gray

March the 8th marks International Women’s Day, amongst other things it allows us to reflect on the wellbeing role and experiences of women during COVID-19 pandemic.

This reflection is about women as frontline workers who risk their health (physical and mental) to provide the backbone of public services for the NHS and Social Care and Education sectors. Women, who despite years of ‘equality’ remain unequal in terms of pay and conditions and opportunity to progress and diversify their careers.

It is about the millions of unpaid carers (mostly female) who provide the broadest range of caring services to family, neighbours and friends, who ‘self’ sacrifice their time, ambitions, and dreams to help the most vulnerable in our society. Such women form an invisible and unrecognised bedrock of our economy and societies.

It is about the millions of women yet to step into the world of work, whose young lives have been impacted through a critical disruption in their education, and may now have lost a lifeline that would lift them out of a life of poverty and escape the syndemic challenges that drag them back into an anxiety filled future.

It is about how the pandemic has impacted women and young girls in terms of domestic violence, reduced their access to sexual and reproductive wellbeing services, and crisis support.

It is about the millions and millions of women worldwide who have and are, staring the future in the eye and saying I want a better world, I want a safer world, I want a world where we put caring for the planet at the beginning and not the end of our priorities.

It is about the grandmothers, mothers, daughters and sisters who have felt the excruciating pain of separation and yet who chose to remain isolated rather than risk the wellbeing of others.

It is about all these things and it is about the years ahead, where we shape our futures, and learn to live with and adapt to a world with new threats. In this new world we need to reposition the role and the work of women. We need to see clearly that the wellbeing of our future generations are built on the back breaking, heart centred contributions women have always made to our health, education and social systems.

While we are seeking to create a new and better world to live in, let us use International Women’s Day not just as a celebration of women, let us grasp the opportunity to put wellbeing and the wellbeing work that women do right at the core of our systems and processes. Doing so will result in an equitable sharing of resources that contribute to global wellbeing, and contribue to women being truly valued and rewarded.