Lockdown, Week One March 23 2020
Well, what a week it has been.
We are where we are - at home for most of us; except those dedicated key workers in the NHS and those who provide other essential services in these unprecedented times - and to them, our heartfelt thanks.
We thought it might be helpful to do a wee blog, to hopefully help keep our spirits up and to assure you that when we get to the other side of this, which we will, that we will carry on with our determination for the voice of older women to be heard - and crucially for policy makers to interpret the law regarding discrimination, properly.
For those of us self-isolating - which again is the vast majority of the population, finding ways to keep ourselves, busy and healthy won’t be a problem - at least for the first few days and even weeks. But after you’ve washed everything in the house, cleaned out all the cupboards, made enough food and frozen it to feed an army, what next?
Well, just an idea, but you could use a small part of each day to peruse our way forward for our campaign and perhaps be better-informed as to why we are doing this.
Not to disparage other groups who took up the cause of the unfair changes to state pension age some 5 years ago now but . . . nothing has changed.
Despite letters to MP’s, petitions, even a Judicial Review, the government has not changed anything back, nor made any attempt to compensate fifties-born women for the financial discrimination which was visited upon them. We have tried to explain that this is because it is primary legislation and cannot be changed - no matter how morally wrong or otherwise we might have felt that legislation was, and is.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, is an oft-used term and the Pensions Act of 1995 is a case in point. Legislation in government is - normally, unless in special circumstances such as we have now - a slow business with many stages, and is an open transparent process which is reported on in various papers and committee stages ad infinitum until it finally passes into law.
A fair proportion of us will have, or will shortly have, our pensions and we believe as that happens support for that fight is starting to wane.
We want to make it clear therefore, as we have done all along, that though we have had many twists and turns along our journey to and for justice and fairness for older women, we intend to continue and to be as confident as we can that our voices are heard, that our life experience is listened to and acted upon, in order that future generations of women will receive fair treatment in law.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “All Animals are equal“ was one of the seven commandments the animals on the farm were to abide by, but the pigs on the farm quickly changed that and added “but some are more equal than others“ to justify pigs becoming the leaders of all the animals.
Covid 19 does not treat people equally either - it is far more deadly in older people and those with underlying health issues - and apparently seems to also be disproportionately affecting more men than women, according to the statistics so far. Theories we’ve seen appear to suggest that in countries such as Italy and China where more deaths of men have been recorded, it is possibly due to higher rates of other unhealthy life choices like smoking and drinking, which then exacerbate the effect of the virus.
It does seem to illustrate however that treating people fairly, is not about treating them the same - governments around the world have had to take drastic measures to shield the more vulnerable groups and issue different guidelines for them than for everyone else.
What we are asking for therefore for women, is for fair treatment - aligned to the circumstances which they find themselves in - and that should not mean that they as individuals need to take up any fight which involves their sex-based rights. The Equality and Human Rights Commission are the body who should be on our side and we will continue to lobby them to look at our evidence, - through the lens of the pensions issue, yes, but on the much wider topic of women’s sex- based rights in general.
So here endeth the first lesson . . .hope it has sparked your interest.
As a first step to getting more informed I can highly recommend the book: Difficult Women, A History of Feminism in 11 fights by Helen Lewis.
Unfortunately due to library and bookshop closures you won’t be able to get it via those routes but it can be bought online and as an audio-book. As the book says; well-behaved women don’t make history - difficult women do.
Amen to that!
Stay safe, stay well and stay with us!