Covid-19 Pandemic: Amplifying Gender Inequality in Donegal

Tuesday 8th March is International Women’s Day, a day to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women but also draw attention to gender inequality experienced by women.

In 2020, The United Nations  identified women as being one of the most vulnerable groups that are hit hardest by pandemics. With officials suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality. “Women are doing significantly more domestic chores and family care, because of the impact of the pandemic. Everything we worked for, that has taken 25 years, could be lost in a year. Employment and education opportunities could be lost, and women may suffer from poorer mental and physical health. The care burden poses a “real risk of reverting to 1950s gender stereotypes”, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia stated [1] 

As a grassroots women’s organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network also recognised early that women in Donegal would face unique experiences, challenges and impacts during the pandemic because of their gender. We believed it was important women in Donegal had their lived experiences through the pandemic documented, recognised and acknowledged. And that women’s experiences and voices are acknowledged within any local and national post Covid-19 recovery strategy and that decision-making bodies recognise the particular experiences of women’s lives in society and tailor any recovery budgets, policies, plans and programmes accordingly.

For the past two year the Donegal Women’s network have collected data on how the pandemic has impacted women’s lives and gender equality. In 2020 we carried out a county wide survey with 832 women taking part, and in 2021 we carried out a follow up survey with 509 women. It is evident from the data gathered over these two years that the pandemic has created additional stresses for women in the Donegal and added pressure to existing gender inequalities and gender stereotypes.

The women who took part in the surveys talked about a number of issues and challenges they have faced since the start of the pandemic. Such as dealing with additional household workload, increased caring responsibilities, going through pregnancy during the pandemic, and dealing with health challenges. Many of these women talked about the additional workload and the challenge of balancing working from home and childcare, expectations. Home-schooling was a particular issue raised by women, many stated that they had experienced an assumption by their partner that it would be them who would look after home-schooling. Which was a cause of frustration for women.


Changes to Domestic Life

61.4% of women stated that they had seen an increase in physical household workload (such as cooking, cleaning etc.). 41.8% had seen an increase in household admin workload (such as managing bills, appointments etc.). And 50.3% experienced an increase in supporting a family/community member who had to Cocoon due to the pandemic. 38% of women surveyed said that they had seen an increase in adult care responsibilities and compared 46.3% stated that they had experienced an increase in child care responsibilities.

The level of experiences in increased responsibilities varied among women depending on women’s age, civil and household status. Women in the 26-40 years’ category reported the highest level of increased child care responsibilities for any age group; while married women reported the highest level in the civil status category which are both consistent with the 2020 findings. Within the household category, women living with their partner and child/children and lone parent mothers reported the highest experienced increase in child care responsibilities. 

Women in the 18-25 years, followed by 26-40 years’ category reported the highest level in Increased physical household workload; while women under Other, living with partner reported the highest level in the civil status category; within the household category, women living with partner and child/children and women living with a parent/s reported the highest experienced increase in physical household workload.

Women in the 18-25 years’ category (63%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning for any age group, again this is consistent with the 2020 findings although there was a reported 9% experienced increase within this age group.  

Widowed women (75%) reported the highest level in the civil status category; within the household category, women with other house status (75%) and women living with my parent/s (66.7%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning.

Mental Health Impacts

Women reported an overwhelming increase in the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. When asked how would you describe how your mental health has been impacted by the pandemic? 55.8% of women said moderately and a further 24% said it had extremely been impacted. This is an increase from June 2020 when 61.1% felt their mental health had been impacted by the pandemic.

These percentage figures saw an increase for women depending on their age, women in the 18-25 age group reported the highest impact with 47.3% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 42.1% stating extremely impacted. Women in the 26-40 age group came second with 55.1% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 30.8% stating extremely impacted. 

Women in the Carndonagh Local Electoral Area reported the highest level of mental health impact with 59.4% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 29.7% stating extremely impacted. Buncrana followed behind with 55.6% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 28.9% stating extremely impacted.

Women with a civil status of living with a partner had the highest percentage for any civil status category. With 59.6% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 29.8% stating extremely impacted. Separated/divorced women came second with 53.7% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 31.4% stating extremely impacted.  

Women with a household status of living with a parent/s had the highest percentage for any household status category, with 48.4% stating that their mental health had been moderately impacted and a further 39.3% stating extremely impacted.

The amount of time women had to look after their mental health has also been impacted, with 42% of women stating they now had less time to time.

51.2% of women within the 26-40 years’ age group, stated that they had less time to look after their mental health and wellbeing, the highest rate of all the age groups. 55.3% of women with a civil status of living with a partner reported the highest rate within the civil status group. 

And 53.2% of women with a household status of living with a partner and child stated that they had less time to look after their mental health and wellbeing, the highest rate of all the household status groups. 

Feelings of isolation and loneliness has been a particular area of mental health experienced by women with 75.4% of women reporting that they have experienced feelings of isolation, a sharp increase from the 60.4% reported in 2020. While 70.7% of women reported feelings of loneliness since the pandemic, again an increase from the 57% reported in 2020.


Paid work and employment challenges

43.2% of the women surveyed said that their job became classified as a frontline worker or essential worker. 31.8% of women were now working from home. 17.9% saw their job working hours reduced as a result of the pandemic. 12% experienced a job loss as a consequence. 14% received the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. While 4.7% of surveyed women reported a job loss/suspension due to caring responsibilities.

Additional childcare responsibilities during the pandemic has impacted women’s paid work and employment greatly. When further asked whether they felt their employer was supportive in understanding how the pandemic has impacted these responsibilities, of those women the question directly applied to 28% of those women answered NO, an increase from the 24% result in June 2020.

When asked why they felt that their employer has not been supportive, a number of women gave examples of their experiences including, their employer not being flexible with childcare responsibilities, being forced to use annual leave for childcare, with essential workers with children finding it particularly challenging with employers.


The data further highlights that women have come to learn, develop, be resilient and adapt to living through the pandemic. Some women have experienced opportunities to develop and be innovative i.e. engaging in online learning and using technology for social and community engagement, which has allowed them to engage in new opportunities they may not have been able to in the past, due to travel distances or caring responsibilities.

And while women have reported adapting to living with the pandemic, a question that must be asked is at what cost to their long-term mental health? Is this adaptation and change sustainable in the long term or even fair? And is there significant capacity within mental health support services locally to meet future demand?

The experiences of women also highlight that there needs to be a better understanding about gender inequality and its impact on women’s lives. With the majority of childcare responsibilities falling onto the women within households, there seems to be assumptions it will be the woman who is solely responsible for this area of work. While there may be situations where this is agreed upon, the vast majority of the experiences expressed by women would indicate that there is often no agreement within relationships but rather an assumption.

Such assumptions are likely built by continued held social gender stereotypes, that a woman’s role is to look after the children and family home. Such stereotypes are detrimental to achieving gender equality and the healthy sustainable development of our society.

You can download a full copy of the 2021 follow up impact survey report with recommendations below here.


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network would like to thank and acknowledge all the women who took the time to complete our county Covid-19 Impact Survey. Your time and insightful input are very much appreciated. Your shared experiences help inform our work over the coming year, as we will continue to support women throughout and beyond this pandemic.

If you would like to know further information about NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network and our work please visit donegalwomensnetwork.org or email us on donegal@womenscollective.ie


[1] Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality; By Sandrine Lungumbu and Amelia Butterly,  November 2020

Sorcha’s Healthy Living

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Sorcha Mc Elchar, a qualified Nutritionist, Healthy Lifestyle Blogger, columnist, Fitness instructor, and YouTuber from Donegal.


My nutrition story began early on and from a very young age. I had a keen interest in Nutrition and still have a project from Primary School where we had to write what we wanted to be in the future. Some of my classmates wrote they wanted to be a Hairdresser, a Guard, a Teacher etc but what did I write…. a Dietitian. Most 12-year-olds didn’t even know what a Dietitian was…but unfortunately, I did because I had met several growing up…. along with numerous Doctors, Consultants, and Nurses. Why was that? …I hear you say.

At the age of two I became very ill. It began with sore eyes so bad I couldn’t bare to go out in daylight (I also had very pale skin so you could be thinking Vampire here….) but along with chronic diarrhoea and a failure to thrive the Doctors just couldn’t figure out the cause. That was until at age four when I went into a full body cramp (very painful) and it was discovered my blood Calcium levels were extremely low and I was finally diagnosed with a rare Auto-immune Disease called APECED syndrome. Due to two faulty genes, my Immune system was attacking the hormone producing glands in my body. My failure to thrive was because my gut didn’t absorb enough nutrients from my food. The Dietitians tried everything to help me put on weight from shakes to a ‘green card’ allowing me to eat as much junk food as I could…but nothing worked. If I managed to put on a few kilos I would become ill and lose it all again. Life was running in a vicious circle. I had no quality of life. It was either school (if I was well enough) hospital or home. I had no energy for anything else. If I managed a full week of school, we celebrated.

Then at age 17 my Doctors decided I wasn’t going to live much longer if they couldn’t get enough nutrients into me so in a last ditch attempt to save me I was put on a specialised personal Intravenous Nutrition that bypassed my Gut entirely through a permanent central line in my chest at allow the nutrition to go straight into my bloodstream. Then a miracle happened…. within days we could see improvements. I had more energy, I slept better, I caught less infections, I wasn’t cold all the time. my hair, skin and nails were healthier looking. I also felt happier in myself and stronger.


This was my light bulb moment where I saw how important Nutrition was. I still had my condition…I still had loads of medication to take…. I wasn’t cured… but my quality of life improved one hundred-fold.
Thankfully growing up my parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and perseverance. I also had an amazing SNA at Secondary school Trisha Redmond (Finn Valley College) who helped push me out of my comfort zone more and I realised I could do a lot more than I thought I could if I just put my mind to it and now, I had the energy to do this!


I was able to start dance classes with Aislingi Academy in Stranorlar and there I found a new ‘happy place’ where I could get stronger and foster a love for performing. In time I started college at LYIT doing an honours degree in Food Science & Nutrition where I graduated with a first-class degree thanks to the amazing support from my PA’s Therese Fitzsimmons and Bernie Alcorn and all my lecturers who realised despite my illness I was willing to give them 110%. The Disability officer Rosin Mc Cormack in LYIT and everyone at the Curve including the College Nurse Hannah Glackin saw my abilities instead of my disabilities and encouraged me all the way.


When I graduated, we were in lockdown so even though I had ideas of where I could get a job, I had to stay isolated due to my immune deficiency. So Covid motivated me to set up sorchashealthyliving.com where I Blog scientifically sound Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle advice. I also upload videos to my Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel and offer one-to-one Nutrition and Lifestyle consultations and packages which can be found on my webpage and Facebook page.
My goal is to help people realise how important good Nutrition is, because healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Small steps can often make the biggest change….and most importantly….enjoy food!

Contact details for Sorcha: 

Visit her website at: sorchashealthyliving.com

Email: sorchashealthyliving@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SorchasHealthyLiving/

https://www.instagram.com/sorchashealthyliving/

https://www.tiktok.com/@sorchas_healthy_living?


Sorcha’s Healthy Living YouTube Channel


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Five tips for a plastic free July

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Angela Mc Glanaghey the store manager of Simple Simons in Donegal Town, to raise awareness to the global movement and campaign ‘Plastic Free July’.


As the manager of a local health store business ‘Plastic Free July’ is important to us because every single day we see such needless waste. As a business we try and reduce this in any way we can; providing refill solutions to cut down on plastic, offering boxes instead of plastic bags to carry shopping, reusing old packaging to send out our online orders etc. If we don’t stop what we are doing our world is going to run out of space. We must act now to make things better for further generations.


Plastic Free July begins this month, but what is it all about? We all know by now how important it is to cut down on plastic but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. There are so many small changes we can make which WILL add up to make a difference, so here are my top 5 tips for a plastic free July. 

The main thing I recommend is first of all not to be too hard on yourself. When you first try to start it can be really daunting to try and cut all plastic out. Just realise that to make this planet a better place we don’t need 1000 people being plastic free all the time. We need as many people as possibly making small changes which are sustainable. I recommend trying two or three small swaps a week and building that over time.


Here are a few you can do

Reusable coffee cups. SO many of us are fond of our takeaway coffee. During the pandemic really it was all we had. So many nice things were taken away from us and sometimes getting out for a takeaway coffee was a lifeline. Making a swap to a reusable cup can make SUCH a difference. Remember, it’s not about ditching ALL plastic, that’s a really hard sacrifice to make. It’s more about reducing single use plastic. Even if you only get two takeaway coffees a week if you’ve got your own cup that’s over 100 cups you have saved from landfill. And many of us drink way more than that in a week!


Bring your own bag! How many of us have a drawer sitting at home full of plastic bags? By simply popping one or two into the boot of your car or into your handbag you can reduce the amount you buy from now on. Investing a few euro into a “bag for life” means you will have a strong and sturdy one you can use for years to come. 


Menstrual cups. The amount of waste a single woman produces in her lifetime simply by having a menstrual cycle is shocking. Menstrual cups are a fantastic solution. Each one lasts for around 10-15 years. No need for tampons or pads then. Most menstrual cups are silicone based, and while they may take a cycle or two to get used to they are fantastic. Much more hygienic, clean and plastic free. This is probably my personal favourite of the swaps as I think they are a real game changer!


Refills. In Simple Simons we offer refills on dried foods, body care, household cleaners, natural yoghurt, milk, olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Simply bring in your own container and we will refill it for you. We aren’t the only shop doing refills so ask around. This means the plastic bottle or tub you normally use once and then throw away can be reused hundreds of times, saving so much unwanted single use packaging.


Beeswax wraps. In most Irish households clingfilm is a staple for wrapping sandwiches, leftovers etc. By swapping to a beeswax wrap you are choosing a much more sustainable option. The wraps are made with cloth and coated in beeswax. You can wrap food with them or use to cover food in a bowl. They can be wiped clean with a hot wet cloth and each wrap will work for up to a year. After that you can re-wax them and use again. 


Contact details for Simple Simons: 

Visit there website at: www.simplesimons.ie 

Email them on: hello@simplesimons.ie 

They can also be found on facebook: here


Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Will you be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics? To find out more about this global movement check out the Plastic Free July the website


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Women your lived experience matters

In June 2020, Donegal Women’s Network conducted a Covid-19 impact survey with 832 women living across Donegal taking part.  These survey results provided a snapshot into the lived experiences of women during the March-June 2020 restriction period.

The data gathered identified a series of issues impacting women across the county. The data further highlighted that the pandemic had created additional stresses for women in the County and added pressure to existing gender inequalities and gender stereotypes. The 2020 impact report findings can be read here.



The survey findings helped in the planning of our 2021 working areas and the development of courses and workshops for women. While as an organisation that promotes and supports women’s equality we shared our research report to all the Donegal political representatives, to highlight and ensure they recognise the issues women in the county are facing. In January 2021, Thomas Pringle TD highlighted our research findings to the Minister for Social Protection on Covid-19 during a Dáil Éireann sitting. 

A year on Donegal Women’s Network wants to hear from women living in Donegal again. We have developed a follow up survey and we are inviting women to share with us their experiences of life through the pandemic over the last year. Collecting this information from you will help inform our future work and allow us to document and bring a local gender lens to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women’s lives and feed into local post-pandemic strategies to support women.


Take part in this survey* HERE

The information gathered in this survey will be stored anonymously (unless you have agreed to be contacted for a follow-up with a member of staff) and securely. It will not be possible to identify you in any of the publications that may result from this survey.  

*All fully completed surveys (approx.15 mins to complete) will be entered into a draw with the chance to win one of a number of prizes that have been kindly sponsored, these include; a €200 Luxury Items Hamper from Cara Pharmacy, Tea for Two at Harvey’s Point Hotel and a lunch and dessert for two at Simple Simon’s in Donegal Town.


If you require a printed copy please email us at donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com or text your details to 087 7981330 and we will send you one out along with a stamped addressed envelope for return.  If anyone would like to complete the survey over the phone please text Finola at 087 7981330 and we can arrange a time to do this.

Donegal Women’s Network is part of the umbrella organisation, the National Collective of Community-Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN). We support women who experience disadvantage and marginalisation as a result of barriers and lack of opportunities.


The information collected on this form will be held by NCCWN – The National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks in manual and in electronic format. The information will be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 1988, the Data Protection (Amendment) Act, 2003, and the Data Protection Act 2018 and your details will not be made public.