Published in two parts, an interim report in August 2020, and the full report a March 2021, Agenda revealed the dire situation for women and girls:
One year on from the announcement of the first national lockdown, on 23rd March 2020, women and girls are in a state of emergency. Women and girls at the sharpest end of inequality are in greater need than ever, facing a complex range of issues. As well as compounding pre‑existing issues, this unprecedented health crisis has driven more women and girls into greater social and economic disadvantage.
Girls and young women – and Black and minoritised women and girls – have been disproportionately affected. With many experts warning that the mental health impacts of the pandemic will last much longer than the physical health impacts, women and girls most at risk of disadvantage will be disproportionately affected in the long‑term. (Voices from Lockdown: Executive Summary, pg. 2)
The report brings together three waves of research to give a snapshot of the reality for women and girls. The most worrying findings were the long term, mental health and economic difficulties that so many would face – with minoritised and Black women and girls being disproportionately affected. We also know from our other grantees requesting Covid-19 related funding of the additional strain the pandemic has brought on frontline services supporting women and girls in socio-economic, mental health and other difficulties.
Agenda focused much of the report on the mental health impact the pandemic brought upon women and girls. They reported ‘women and girls’ mental health is deteriotating, with alarming rates of anxiety, depression and PTSD – driven by women being plunged into poverty and financial hardship and increased abuse’ (pg 13). Mental health further suffered as many services had to be closed or reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions. Not to mention the limited capacity for these services when facing growing demand.
Our research for our new Young Women and Mental Health PLUS programme also confirmed Agenda’s findings. Agenda spoke to 10 specialist girls’ organisations and reported all ten organisations said anxiety was very common and 9 out of 10 identified self harm as very or quite common in the women and girls they support (pg. 16). Like Agenda, we realized the growing urgency to address detoriating mental health for young women and girls – and the importance of providing high quality, age and gender appropriate, mental health provision.
Fortunately, many practical and timely recommendations have been made by Agenda. Some of the most prominent include calling on the government to create a dedicated minister to lead the social recovery for women and girls and for longer term strategy and funding to address the needs of women and girls. They also want the Government’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ to look specifically at the economic recovery of women and girls.
Considering the growing mental health crisis, Agenda recommends the government works with specialist women and girls’ mental health services to fund gender- and trauma-informed mental health services. Importantly, these services must pay particular attention to Black and minoritised women.
Agenda believe that long-term damage to most vulnerable women and girls in our society can be prevented – but decisive and quick action is needed from government. If you’d like to learn more about Agenda’s work, you can visit their website here. The Voices of Lockdown report can be found here.
We are pleased to share our work with Agenda continues with a 3-year grant of £105,000 to support their work of starting in 2021. Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, works to ensure that women and girls facing abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction, homelessness and contact with the criminal justice system get the support and protection they need.
All photos and graphics credit: Agenda