Delta lockdown: Worse than the first for women and families in Tāmaki Makaurau
This time around, in spite of huge community efforts, need is greater, stress is higher and support is harder to find. For many, it will take a long time to recover.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Tania Kingi has worked in the disability sector for almost 40 years yet she told The Spinoff late last month: “Right now, the community is suffering at levels that I’ve never seen before.” While lockdown became a memory for the rest of the country on 7 September, news reports have painted a grim picture of ongoing lockdown in Tāmaki Makaurau in the weeks since – particularly for women of marginalised communities.
Disabled people are isolated and fearful, and food delivery is an issue – and the murder of Lena Zhang Harrap in Mt Albert may be causing more fear. (Recent research confirmed a higher proportion of disabled women are subject to non-partner sexual violence than non-disabled women or disabled men.) Pacific women and their communities – already dealing with pay inequity and related poverty – are facing the toxic stress of more food insecurity than usual: not enough food, or mostly low-quality food (only 25% of food banks can regularly source fruit and vegetables). The same goes for low-income families led by sole parents (usually women) of all ethnicities: loneliness, as well as food need, spiked for sole parents in the initial lockdown. Then it never went back to pre-Covid levels, and is likely to have spiked again. Meanwhile, anecdotal reports suggest that in alert level 3, fathers are more likely than mothers to have to leave the house to work – which leaves many women, whether low-income or not, with the impossible task of supervising kids’ education and performing paid work at the same time. The partial opening of early childhood education centres will provide some caregiving relief for a small number of families with young children – but at the expense of worry and concern of potential exposure to Covid, as children are unvaccinated.
Family violence also seemed to spike in the initial lockdown and since then “there’s never been a slow down, and then it’s just escalated again in this latest lockdown,” Shine’s Holly Carrington told Newshub last month. Not all women experiencing violence have a phone or online access, so getting help is more difficult in lockdown. Concerningly, Women’s Refuge saw a spike in cases at the end of lockdown last year – and in September was worried it could happen again this year.
Other issues which affect women include period poverty – particularly for students who usually use free sanitary products distributed via schools – and concerns about vaccines. People were hearing vaccines could hurt their unborn children, whereas in fact, vaccine benefits outweigh the risks: those who are pregnant are at higher risk of becoming severely ill and dying after contracting Covid, than those who aren’t pregnant.
Clearly these are all complex issues, but it seems they have been exacerbated by a change in Government approach to meet need: instead of the high-trust model of the initial lockdown, when people could more easily access the hardship grants they needed to pay rent, power and internet access as well as groceries, the Government is instead relying on foodbanks: an emergency stop-gap low-trust model which takes away dignity and decision-making power.
Last year, te Wāhi Wāhine o Tāmaki Makaurau recommended that the Government’s Covid response prioritise “caring, community and all contributions to collective well-being.” We repeat that recommendation here. It must include ensuring all women have income to participate and contribute to their communities, and funding genuine community development – not just expecting volunteers to try and fill the desperate need for income in the community with food parcels.