Politics

‘We Are Survivors’: A Year On The Covid Front Line For 6 British Women

“I’ve never worked in those kind of conditions. It was like fire fighting. You had young people, as well as elderly people, who were just fighting for their lives.”

As a respiratory specialist, Dr Shumonta Quaderi’s life was turned upside down when Covid-19 tore through the UK last spring. The 37-year-old, from London, was worried about the virus “right from the beginning”. Beds in ICU were filling up, while ventilators were running critically low.

“We were totally inundated with numbers, but this was a completely new thing for us,” she says. “We had no idea what we were dealing with. Yes, the virus attacked the lungs, but it was attacking other parts of the body as well. We were all learning together, the best way to manage and treat it.”

To make matters more complicated, Dr Quaderi was also four months pregnant, with her first child. Pregnant women had been advised not to do frontline work, yet despite support from her hospital, Dr Quaderi decided to go against the advice. She had adequate PPE – though reports of “extreme shortages” elsewhere in the country were rife – and felt it was her duty to continue.

“I felt really strongly and passionately about wanting to work,” she says. “It was my particular specialty, and my profession, so it would feel weird to sit back.”

Dr Shumonta Quaderi in Covid ICU (left) and with her family (right)

Dr Shumonta Quaderi in Covid ICU (left) and with her family (right)

Women like Dr Quaderi have been working throughout the pandemic in the very jobs that have kept the nation functioning. Many are doing so while shouldering society’s unpaid work, too – childcare, looking after elderly relatives, and housework – which still disproportionately falls to women.

As the UN has said: Women stand at the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organisers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.”




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