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President’s Message May 2020

Isobel Smith, SIGBI President 2019-2020Hello,

Since the World Health Organisation officially declared the Covid19 a pandemic on 11 March, life has changed beyond all recognition.  The news from around the world and the daily toll of cases and deaths reminds us why the measures now in place are so important.

The shutdown has caused immeasurable pain in jobs lost, people isolated, and worsening inequity.  It is heartening to hear in the last few days that it may be that a corner has been turned and that we could start to see a phased approach back to normality, whatever that turns out to be.

We rely on innovation in testing and vaccination and bit by bit we are hearing of advances in this area.

We have seen the effect on health but it has had a huge impact on the economy.  May 1 saw the World Bank begin an important debt relief initiative for the world’s poorest countries and in addition they are proceeding at full speed with their COVID-19 support.  It is currently assisting 93 countries with COVID-related health projects, with support in another 18 countries expected shortly.  The broad support efforts can be viewed on this interactive map.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, says,

“Measures to protect and stimulate the economy, from cash transfers to credits and loans, must be targeted at women.

Social safety nets must be expanded.

Unpaid care work must be recognized and valued as a vital contribution to the economy.”

The pandemic has also led to a horrifying increase in violence against women.

Nearly one in five women worldwide has experienced violence in the past year.  Many of these women are now trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services that are suffering from cuts and restrictions.

This was the basis for my appeal to governments earlier this week to take urgent steps to protect women and expand support services.

COVID-19 is not only challenging global health systems, but testing our common humanity.

Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone.”

It is a time for pulling together and looking after each other in the face of this pandemic.  The articles that are arriving for our SIGBI COVID-19 newsletter are truly inspiring.  We are contributing in so many ways by supporting local health and caring services, Foodbanks, Helplines, Refuges, making Scrub Bags, sewing Hearts and lobbying on issues facing women and girls, in particular at the moment, to support the Domestic Abuse Bill going through UK Parliament.   I know that Regions/National Associations and Countries are still fundraising to support their chosen charities and our all-important Federation Project ‘Empowering Girls in Nepal’.  We are all striving to protect children, adults, families and communities during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Who would have guessed that when The World Health Organization designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife how prophetic that would be!

Look after each other, stay in touch and let’s see how things change in the next few weeks.