Women on the frontline against COVID-19 pandemic

by DSC Paris 1

In November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron, promised that he would be personally attentive to the equality between men and women in our society.
He declared it as the “great cause” of his five-year term. Two years later, despite existing laws supposedly guaranteeing equal rights, the facts remain frightening clear.
In 2020 in France:

This year, in honour of International Women’s Day, DiEM25 — together with human rights associations, women’s associations and numerous citizens — endeavoured to draw the attention of public authorities and the public to the daily violence against women in a country that claims to be modern and sophisticated.
On the evening of March 7, an authorised and peaceful pre-demonstration to fight violence against women took place in Paris. Numerous buses of the security forces and multiple police motorbikes quickly surrounded the women. They were corralled and trapped. Many of these women were insulted, beaten and dragged by their hair on to the ground and the stairs of the metro.  Nine women were arrested and put in detention for having slightly exceeded the authorised demonstration time. The government first tried to excuse the violence used by the police, before eventually acknowledging that it had been a peaceful demonstration.
The following day 60,000 women, including members of DiEM25 in Paris who are very involved in the defence of women’s rights, demonstrated in Paris (part of 130,000 women in the whole of France). Not only were these women shocked by the previous day’s violence by the police, they were equally appalled that Roman Polanski, a confessed rapist, had won the award for best director the previous week at the Césars
In the pouring rain, Parisian women walked for six hours and organised a choreography guided by those dressed in blue working overalls, red scarves and yellow washing-up gloves, like ‘Rosie the riveter’, a representation of women who had to take over previously male-only jobs during World War II, and an icon of all female workers invisible to society.

But a one-day demonstration once a year is definitely not sufficient to assert women’s rights and protect them from violence. Laws will not be enough to break the professional glass ceiling nor to ensure equal salaries and opportunities.
Yesterday, the French Prime Minister declared a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus, and the government forced both state and private schools to shut down. The most asked question in the population was: since women constitute 70% of hospital staff, who is going to take care of the children? The children must stay home, but as usual, it is women (and not men) that are expected to stay home to look after the children.
The government has a male view of families and didn’t think of the valuable female nurses, doctors, and cleaners that are needed in the workforce. Nevertheless, it is women that are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, constituting the majority of nurses, cashiers, teachers, and caretakers. Women cannot be fighting the virus in hospitals, and looking after their children at home at the same time.
We, at DiEM25, must fight every day on the ground, together with like-minded collectives, if we are ever to achieve equality. Equality and the reduction of violence will mainly come from changes in education at a very early age.
It is therefore essential that we, DiEM25, keep reflecting on what needs to be changed in kindergartens, schools, in sports clubs and universities and that we create an Education/Culture pillar in order to transmit these ideas and create lasting change.

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