Aida Narimani is Group Co-ordinator of Fawcett Merseyside. Originally from Sweden, she moved to England in 2009, and currently works as an events coordinator at a women's organisation. Aida is passionate about supporting policy work that makes real change for women. Here she shares how the community in Liverpool have risen to meet the challenges presented during the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool has always had a strong people's history with justice and togetherness at the forefront of its ethos. You will only have to look back at recent history to recall the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death, and how for over 20 years there has been a campaign to get justice. And instead of a failed corporate gentrification project, a grassroots organisation called Granby 4 Street Community Land trust took over Toxteth’s once derelict streets and developed affordable homes. This community project later won the Turner Prize for city planning and development.

When the pandemic hit the UK, it was no different, as the community came together to ensure that the most vulnerable were looked after. Local cafes turned into food banks, mutual aid groups popped up overnight and mental health services were offered for free. This is how Merseyside operates. This is how Merseyside has always had to operate.

When the Prime Minister announced the re-opening of primary schools and nurseries, for some families in other parts of England, this announcement would have been met with a sigh of relief. But, in the Northwest the R-rate was at 1.01, so our mayor, Joe Anderson, and the Metro Mayor, Steven Rotherham, decided to go against the national guidelines, because they deemed that Liverpool was still not safe to open.

I can imagine a lot of families, like my own, have had many a heated discussion about safety, risk and job security. As women we are at more risk of losing our jobs, homes and falling through safety nets. We have seen recent statistics that show mothers are more likely to have quit, lost their jobs or have been furloughed since the lockdown. This has had a significant economic impact on families and lone parent households, who at the start of lockdown, have had to juggle childcare and working from home, all the while not knowing if their job is safe. This uncertainty has also impacted greatly on women’s mental health, as studies by the Health Foundation found that pre-pandemic, women have not only had worse mental health problems, but also been hit hardest during the pandemic and since lockdown.

Liverpool also receives low funds from central government for a major city, and we’ve experienced hard austerity measures for over nine years with ideological government cuts to fundamental services that provide valuable help for women. The city is also at risk of losing funding because of Brexit. 

This is where Liverpool’s proud community and people-driven history comes in. There has been a surge of help for women in the city. One local social enterprise has been able to offer free counselling and mindfulness practices especially for women. This service was picked up 300 times in the first 24 hours of release. Free mother and child singalong and dance lessons have also been made available and is another vital service which helps prevent mothers from feeling isolated. The list goes on and on.

I know what I have written about is not specific to women in Liverpool but all over the country. But one thing we all can take away is the ‘Liverpool way’. That we women are a community and we need work together to create safety nets, to bring women out of isolation and help each other in a way that a real community does.