Updated: May 3, 2020
A lot can happen in four months. Things you’d binge watch on Netflix suddenly become a reality, fashion becomes your everyday and you learn so much in so little time. Some phenomena exhume a kind of rot that has been buried and hidden behind euphemisms and black and white photos but when the veil is removed, the stench is stifling.
In November, the world came to know of COVID-19. Like most Trinis, I was concerned about Carnival, what it would mean for us knowing that being the Mecca means hosting persons from every corner of the world. You never really think it’ll hit you. Some things seem so far away, you become removed from it and just look on from your comfortable couch on a flat screen TV. At this moment there are over 100 countries infected by this virus.
Across the world, governments have issued measures to curb the spread of the virus; lockdowns, state of emergencies, closure of several establishments and the encouragement of citizens to stay at home and to practice proper hygiene.
What COVID-19 has unearthed skeletons, the inability for a nation to ensure that persons with a harsher lived reality are really safe and given the tools to survive. This pandemic is not a single issue pandemic. Like many pandemics that stack history books, we see the kind of effect that a nationwide shutdown can have on its citizens.
In Trinidad and Tobago, sectors (Tourism, Informal, Fast Food Chains) that have been seen as non-essential have been shut down till everything returns to normalcy. Most of these sectors are comprised of workers who are women. With the closure, jobs have been lost sending the unemployment rate at an all time high, worldwide, above 15%. In some homes, women are the breadwinners, especially in Caribbean territories. Now more than ever we see an imbalance of the burden within the home. In a webinar with Dr. Rosina Wiltshire for the Young Women in Leadership 2020 cohort, she shared that the Pandemic has brought about artificial boundaries to the fore and more issues for women, women carry the load of food production in the home, homeschooling, maintenance of the household. Across the Globe we see an increase in Domestic Violence cases, “ while some crimes are on the decrease globally, Domestic Violence has seen an exponential rise.” Dr. Wiltshire shared.
The UNFPA in The Guardian, has described the levels of Domestic Violence to be calamitous, reporting that for every 3 months we are in lockdown there are 15 million cases of Domestic Violence across the world. "The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has also calculated that tens of millions of women will not be able to access modern contraceptives this year, and millions more girls will undergo female genital mutilation or be married off by 2030." Ultimately women have nowhere to turn, there are not enough shelters to hold them and in some cases not enough measures are being put in place to ensure that these numbers are dealt with.
With the introduction of distance learning through online platforms we see how many students are largely affected by this. Now more than ever we see how badly our education system does not cater for the less fortunate. Many students across the nation and the world at large have little to no access to laptops, phones and internet. They are unable to complete their semesters and school terms. In some homes, the School Feeding Program was the best and only way for children to eat, but with the closure of schools, there is no feasible substitute.
COVID-19 is not a single issue Pandemic. What we are seeing now are occurrences that happen everyday but with a magnifying glass. A country’s recovery cannot only depend on how well the economy booms post-covid. We have to attend to those who have felt the brunt of the negative effects. The women, who make up the majority of the health sector, carry the weight on their backs. How do we ensure that disenfranchised groups are attended to in the now?
What we see now should serve as a wake up call. We must alter the ways we govern to attend to those in need; distribute resources in an equitable way, rebuild our education system in a way that it serves all. Examine how we treat those from a lower socioeconomic position, realise our privilege and use it to do and be better citizens and a nation.