Women and gender diverse people show resilience during pandemic

Research commissioned by the Council has shined a light on both the positive and negative experiences of women and gender diverse people in Greater Geelong during the pandemic.

There were 370 respondents to an online survey, two targeted focus groups, 14 people interviewed and members of the City’s Women in Community Life Advisory Committee engaged. Participants represented a range of cultural, economic and social backgrounds, ages and abilities.

As part of COVID-19 recovery efforts, the Council has endorsed the Gender COVID-19 Impact Analysis Report and an action plan to improve wellbeing, economic and social outcomes for these community members.

The research has highlighted ways in which the Council could underpin its post-pandemic recovery plans, with women (cis and transgender women) and gender diverse people asking the Council and City to value their feedback:

“Listen to us; hear what we need and act on our experiences and our advice; work with the agencies that know us and support us; give us good advice, information, services and support so we can raise our families, be healthy, and get assistance when we need it; help us to share our heavy loads and our many roles at work, at home and in the community.”

The qualitative data illustrates a wide and complex range of impacts on women and gender diverse people, including how gender stereotypes and gendered roles were exacerbated. Negative experiences were heightened when there was more than one pre-existing challenge, such as lack of affordable housing, family violence, mental illness, disability, limited English language or limited mobility.

Participants reported experiencing:

  • More time together as a family and more home cooking;
  • Challenges working from home while managing remote learning for children and increased household duties;
  • Lower rental payments;
  • Increased depression and feelings of anxiety and isolation, especially in women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, young women and women with a disability;
  • Significant stress in migrant and asylum seeker women due to isolation, inability to visit family overseas and confusion about COVID-19 restrictions;
  • Discovery of new places in the neighbourhood to visit for exercise and a new appreciation of nature; and
  • Increased incidence, threats or fear of violence, abuse and harassment at home.

The 12-month action plan highlights a number of immediate and practical opportunities for the City, along with long-term approaches to address the pre-existing structural difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic:

  • Continue the coordination of food delivery services for community members who can’t leave their homes;
  • Explore opportunities around emergency and long-term social housing, focusing on women leaving family violence relationships, and continue implementing the Council’s Social Housing Plan 2020 – 2041.
  • Identify opportunities to bolster existing women’s circles, neighbourhood houses, seniors’ centres, walking groups and family violence and sexual assault support groups;
  • Establish a women’s peer support program for carers of people with a disability; and
  • Continue rolling out the public Wi-Fi project in the northern suburbs.

The report was funded through the Council’s $17.9 million COVID-19 response packages.

Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher thanked participants for sharing their experiences regarding the impacts of COVID-19, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalised.

This data will inform policy and direct funding towards services that help the community recover from the pandemic.

Most importantly, it will promote new thinking and insights around how women’s roles are typically affected during such challenging times.

Councillor Sarah Mansfield, Chair, Diversity, Inclusion and LGBTIQ+ portfolio said listening to these community members has been invaluable.

This research helps us to really understand the needs and experiences of women and gender diverse people, enabling us to support them to access networks and services.

Reading about both the positive and negative experiences provides a clear idea of what’s working and what isn’t, opening up opportunities for us to make positive change.

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