This year’s International Women’s Day focused on gender equality, and how collective awareness may forge a gender-equal world and sensitise citizens to women’s achievements and gender bias. The campaign theme for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, is ‘Choose To Challenge’. As part of this event, we met Dr. Maria Pisani, from the Faculty for Social Wellbeing of the University of Malta for a quick chat on gender-related issues.
Dr. Pisani highlighted that the representation of women in our key political institutions does not automatically mean that the gendered perspective is considered. Commitment to the ongoing transformation of structures in a way that reflects the voices, realities, and needs of our diverse and evolving population is key. Different institutions must be inclusive and open for participation for all, including across genders, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, different dis/abilities and social class, and legal status.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore many new challenges and contrasting experiences for women, particularly those who were already living precarious lives, as they have had to adapt to the crisis, including the shift to working from home (when possible), unemployment, caring responsibilities and home-schooling. For some migrant and refugee women, the difficulties were exacerbated by not being able to rely on the support of families as a result of living in a foreign country. For others, for example, home-schooling simply wasn’t an option due to an array of financial and logistical obstacles. The pandemic has exposed the fractures and inequalities within our society. I think the cost of the pandemic is being disproportionately borne by the poor in Maltese society, and a disproportionate number of these individuals are women and migrants, who often have to face discrimination at the intersections of gender, race, and legal status.
Dr. Pisani hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a kinder, more compassionate space. The multifaceted repercussions of the pandemic will continue to be felt for some time. She hopes that lessons can be learned. We need to understand and embrace our interdependence, and also to take a serious look at our economic model that continues to exacerbate inequalities and injustice, particularly for women. Our public health, our wellbeing as a nation, and as a global population, depends on working together and working towards greater equity. Women’s Day provides a moment to acknowledge this reality, to reflect, and continue the struggle for social justice.
Meet the expert
Dr. Maria Pisani is an academic activist and a senior lecturer in the Department of Youth and Community Studies, University of Malta. Maria’s research interests include forced migration, with a special interest in youth and intersectionalities, sovereignty, citizenship, and political mobilisation. She combines this work with her interest in critical pedagogy and engaging praxis as a project of social transformation towards social justice. Maria is the co-founder and director of Integra Foundation, a Maltese NGO working towards inclusion and equity, with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees, and Executive Board Member on the Platform for Human Rights Malta.