In this blog, Abi Shapiro, Interim Chief Executive, reflects on the challenges and achievements at Young Women’s trust in 2020.
Young Women’s Trust has had a busy year, and like so many other organisations around the world we have been reviewing our priorities and increasing our activity to offer more support wherever possible. It has quickly become apparent that our work as a charity is more important than ever. Millions of young women were already struggling before the pandemic and were more likely to be in low-paid, insecure jobs, face discrimination in the workplace, and to be doing significantly more unpaid work such as cleaning, cooking and caring.
Our response to the pandemic
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected young women, and existing systemic inequalities have been made worse by the lockdown. Our recent Picking up the Pieces report shows that young women have been adversely affected in their careers, finances, homelife and mental health. Our survey of 4,000 young people found that many young women were having to skip meals and access benefits for the first time, with an estimated 1.5 million young women losing income as a result of the pandemic. Young women have also taken on even more unpaid work, and caring requirements for both children and adults have increased exponentially during the pandemic. These factors combined with 76% of young women believing that women face discrimination in the workplace, means that over half (57%) of young women are concerned about their mental health.
Our Emergency Fund was launched in response to the pandemic, and since April we have raised funds to provide relief payments to over 2,500 young women who are struggling to afford essentials such as rent, food and bills. Earlier in the year our Employment Support Fund allocated an additional £80,000 to provide young women with laptops, driving lessons, and clothes to enable them to find and retain employment.
Supporting young women
Our Work It Out employment and wellbeing coaching sessions and CV feedback for young women have been busier than ever during the pandemic, with 3,750 young women using the service over the last 12 months. Our Participation team, who bring young women together to provide training, support and peer connections, has adapted quickly to remote working and transferred our activities online, delivering well attended webinars and training sessions, and moving our residential Advisory Panel events to an online format.
This move to online activity has allowed us to continue to work with young women throughout the pandemic, but has also highlighted that some women in our network have no internet access or suitable technology, with some women having to make a choice between buying food or credit for their phone. As a result of these findings we have trialled a digital inclusion fund, and have been supporting young women to purchase technology or data, enabling them to apply for jobs or benefits and to receive support and feel less isolated, and allowing Young Women’s Trust to learn from the experiences of an otherwise unheard group.
Research and campaigns
We have been extending the scope of our work with young women, and recently developed our research methodology to focus on peer researchers, and our recent report Ignored, Undervalued and Underpaid focused on unpaid work, whilst Picking up the Pieces explores young women’s experiences of the pandemic. Young women have been participating in a paid research training programme, then working with our research team to design, collect and analyse the data.
On the back of this research we launched two successful campaigns in 2020, including #YoungWomenCount and a microsite with an unpaid work calculator, and #NoYoungWomanLeftBehind. Both campaigns have gained a lot of traction and have facilitated young women meeting and starting a dialogue with their MPs. As a result of previous influencing work and ongoing engagement with policymakers and politicians, the Chancellor recently announced that the National Living Wage will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds, an issue we have strongly campaigned on. The last year has also seen the launch of Young Women’s Trust’s activism training programme, with a group of young women participating in workshops and training on core campaigning skills.
We have also spent the last year strengthening our infrastructure in order to facilitate further growth and have even more impact. Our new website launched last month, the office has successfully pivoted to remote working and online delivery, and we’ve invested in a 12 month equity, diversity and inclusion programme.
2021 will see Young Women’s Trust continue to increase the impact of Work It Out, to grow our research output and continue to collaborate with peer researchers to ensure the work of Young Women’s Trust continues to be relevant and that our strategy and priorities are shaped by the experiences of young women. Diversity and inclusion will be a key priority at Young Women’s Trust, and we plan to continue to invest time and money into educating ourselves and reviewing our culture and policies to ensure that we are a truly inclusive organisation.
There is still a huge amount of work to do in order to create a world where young women no longer face discrimination; the last year has been challenging, and young women are likely to feel the aftermath for months if not years to come. Young Women’s Trust will continue to work with young women to publish important research findings, to provide support to young women and to campaign until full equality for young women is achieved.
We could not have supported thousands of young women through our Emergency Fund and coaching without the generosity of all our supporters who have made donations and have volunteered their time, our incredibly capable and resilient staff team, and of course all the passionate and dedicated young women who have worked with us over the last 12 months. Together you have ensured that Young Women’s Trust is prioritising the most pressing issues and continuing to have an genuine impact on the lives of young women.
We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a brighter 2021.
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