There is now light at the end of the tunnel, but we must make sure vulnerable minority women also see that light.
As we exit lockdown and many look forward to returning to some sense of normalcy, it is important to remember that the end of lockdown is not necessarily an exciting prospect for everyone. For some, it is a painful reminder of loved ones lost during the past year or loved ones they haven’t seen for over a year. For many vulnerable, marginalised, and ethnic minority women, the end of lockdown brings with it an uncertain future.
So, what should we bear in mind and what can we do to support the women and communities who need it most?
Lockdown has brought with it the difficulties of being stranded alone or trying to adjust to living with the entire family 24/7, but for some women and girls this has meant being stuck with their abusers with no escape or relief, including those at risk of FGM or forced marriage, who are now even more under the radar than before. Though lockdown has, in some ways, highlighted the prevalence of domestic abuse — sadly, through a spike in reported cases — in its aftermath we must continue to campaign for effective protections for vulnerable women, regardless their personal characteristics or immigration background. Where possible, we should support organisations that provide advice and support to survivors, and be sensitive to those who may be struggling.
Similarly, the pandemic has unfortunately also resulted in a worsening of the mental health epidemic, as many have struggled with living in isolation, the financial impact of COVID-19, deaths of loved ones, and health anxieties, amongst many other stress factors. Ethnic minority communities have been hit particularly hard, as they already face considerable obstacles in accessing mental health services without the additional restrictions imposed by lockdown. We must both tackle some of the entrenched attitudes in some minority communities that make individuals with poor mental health wary of seeking assistance, and ensure that the organisations with the necessary expertise to address many of the associated intersectional issues have access to all the resources they need. On a personal level, reach out to your loved ones and even people you haven’t spoken to in a while, and check in to see how they’re doing. Maybe you could be the one person that individual needed to listen.
The devastatingly disproportionate health impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities is well-known, but ethnic minority business owners have had to suffer an additional disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic. This shows the importance of equipping minoritised communities with knowledge like digital literacy to ensure that they are not further marginalised because of a lack of adequate knowledge of the British ‘system’ or technology. As we begin to enjoy our creature comforts outside again and many of us are treating ourselves to pampering sessions or the pleasure of shopping in-person once more, we can try to seek out BAME-owned and women-owned businesses — rather than defaulting to large chains — to do our part to support minority business owners as they get back on their feet.
Finally, charities have been devastated by the pandemic, with a severe loss of funding and the inability to deliver face-to-face services or fundraise in-person. Whilst JAN Trust is fortunate to have survived the pandemic, we are no exception. Albeit in different ways from before to adapt to lockdown, we have continued to support our marginalised women, campaign against violence against women — including FGM and forced marriage — and speak out against the scapegoating of, and further discrimination against, our ethnic minority communities. To make sure that our work continues, please consider making a donation.