International Women's Day: A step back for equality? Covid-19 and the impact on women's socio-economic rights

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Abigail Holt

Nicola Braganza KC

Linda Foley

Angharad Smith

Diana Maddah

#ChooseToChallenge  #IWD2021

Date: Tuesday 9 March 2021
Time: 5pm-6.30pm
Areas of Law: Employment and Discrimination Law , Civil Liberties and Human Rights , Garden Court International

Share This Page

Email This Page

This event will examine the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women's socio-economic rights in both a domestic and international context. To what extent has the pandemic further entrenched discrimination?

Lockdown has forced many to retreat into the domestic sphere, to be confined by an unsettling mixture of regulations and fear. There is a worrying degree of anecdote that women have borne the brunt of additional caring responsibilities; home-schooling; lost work opportunities whilst trying to protect their families’ mental health. There is a concern that when a degree of normality returns and the government furlough scheme ends, then it will be women who are more likely to lose their jobs.

The pandemic has revealed certain burdens tend to fall more heavily on the shoulders of women. Our speakers will draw on their legal expertise and grassroots work both internationally and within the UK to consider this impact across a broad number of different areas:

  • Employment discrimination - surveys have found more than 70% of working mothers who asked to be furloughed for childcare reasons since schools shut have been refused and twice as many mothers as fathers say they will have to take time off with no pay due to school closures.
  • Women's experiences of food poverty and insecurity during the pandemic.
  • The impact on women refugees, victims of modern slavery and domestic servitude.

On 9 March join our evening of presentations analysing whether the consequences of the pandemic are a chilling significant step back for women to be metaphorically tied to the kitchen sink; and, if so, how we get our legal marigolds on and work on a jurisprudential spring clean to get our house in order using our expert knowledge of legal appliances?    




Abigail Holt, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers (Chair)
Abigail joined Garden Court Chambers in September 2020. Her practice has long focused on health and medical-related issues. Her background is in difficult tort/negligence cases resulting in serious injury and death. She has particular expertise in industrial diseases – particularly lung disease, including asbestos from heavy industrial settings. Frequently, an issue in such cases is who bears the practical cost for caring from the ill and injured or looks after the dying and how can they be compensated?

Abigail’s expertise is far wider than most personal injury and clinical negligence practitioners, because 14 years of sitting part-time as a First Tier Tribunal Judge has required her to make decisions applying human rights, European law and international law. This, combined with the attack on personal legal rights symbolised by Brexit, led her to spend time working with the team of référendaires in the Cabinet of UK Advocate General, Eleanor Sharpston at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, where both her excellent French and Spanish language skills and wide legal background were very useful. Abigail then went on to do a Diploma in European Law at Kings College London.

Her scientific background, from studying medicine prior to switching to jurisprudence at university, her legal practice as a barrister, steeped in medical and engineering issues, as well as living in the heart of Manchester, means that she is well-placed to critique the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abigail has seen the adverse effects of the pandemic on some of the most vulnerable members of her community first-hand; from ex-industrial deprived long-standing Manchester communities; to the massively diverse global dispossessed who arrive in the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ with no support, but are rich in legal rights.

Nicola Braganza, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Nicola specialises in Discrimination, Equality, Public law, with an emphasis on human rights, Immigration and Asylum.  She is ranked in the Legal 500 and in Chambers & Partners as a leading barrister in Employment law, for her discrimination work, Immigration, and Civil Liberties and Human Rights. She regularly provides training and workshops on equality issues, and has been an invited speaker at the European Academy of Law, Trier, Germany, on the EU Directives on Equality and Anti-Discrimination for many years.  In 2017 Nicola presented on the inclusion of intersectional discrimination in the draft Anti-Discrimination Directive to the Working Group on Social Questions of the Council of the EU in Brussels. In 2018 Nicola gave evidence on the Home Office Race Disparity Audit paper before the Women and Equalities Committee.
Over the last 28 years, Nicola has successfully acted for many claimants in discrimination claims against a range of employers, including public authorities, multi-national corporations, the police, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office.  Most recently, she represented several women in the Armed Forces on a human rights challenge concerning the handling of sexual violence offences by the MoD, which has led to the recent launch of an inquiry by the Defence Committee on 'Women in the Armed Forces: From Recruitment to Civilian Life' and some 4,000 submissions to date.  Nicola is also currently acting for a number of other women in the Armed Forces on separate discrimination and victimisation claims.

Since 2017 Nicola has been involved in work and support for the refugees in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk, France. In 2017 she was a founding member of Refugee Legal Support Athens, a legal clinic based in Athens and providing refugees in Greece with legal support.  In 2019 Nicola wrote on “Human dignity - a lesser right for refugees?” which was published in the European Human Rights Law Review (2019) EHRLR 2.  In May last year Nicola was appointed a part-time Employment Judge and a part-time Tribunal Judge on the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

Linda Foley, Volunteer and Trustee of South Manchester Trussell Trust Foodbank
Since the start of the pandemic all foodbanks have seen a sharp increase in poverty and the need for their services. As a volunteer and trustee Linda has seen first-hand the devastating impact of poverty in her community. Her foodbank works in close partnership with Manchester City Council, schools, local Churches and community groups to provide dignity, emergency food and signpost people to the support they need to get out of poverty. The pandemic has entrenched existing inequalities and austerity policies have had a disproportionate impact on women and girls.

Linda has lived experience of poverty. She has dedicated her life to making a difference to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through her work as a teacher, Headteacher, governor and school inspector. Linda helped to set up L’Arche Manchester a charity which supports adults with learning disabilities to live life to the full. Linda is a climate campaigner and trained in carbon literacy. She is working with others to urgently mobilise schools and communities to reduce carbon emissions. Linda has been selected to stand in Didsbury East in the 2021 local elections for the Labour Party.

Angharad Smith, Programme Officer for the Modern Slavery Programme at the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research
Prior to joining the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, Angharad held a research and policy internship at ECPAT International Secretariat in Bangkok, where she conducted secondary research into the sexual exploitation of children. Before her internship, she supervised a team of researchers at the University of Nottingham Rights Lab responsible for delivering data collection on government response to modern slavery for the Walk Free Foundation’s 2019: ‘Measurement, Action and Freedom’ report.

Angharad Smith holds a Master’s in Slavery and Liberation from the University of Nottingham, the first Master’s degree of its kind to provide comprehensive training on how best to achieve the liberation and social reintegration of those in slavery. During that time, she also worked as a Research Associate with the Rights lab conducting research into Slavery in Conflict. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in History and Ancient History from the University of Nottingham. Following her studies, she was elected into the role of Student Union President, a position which involved representing student interests and holding both financial and legal responsibility for the Union.

Diana Maddah, Public Health Instructor and Research Project Coordinator in Lebanon
Diana Maddah has a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut. She is pursuing her PhD in Public Health in a joint program between the Lebanese University and American University of Beirut.  She is a member of the advisory committee on Women Leaders in Global Health run by Stanford University and has received many awards, such as the Delta Omega Award, for excellence in public health. Diana co-leads many projects related to virtual exchange programs, women empowerment, youth engagement and democracy & citizenship programs. 

Previously, Diana worked at Haigazian University as a Project Coordinator for the University Scholars’ Program funded by USAID. Diana has also worked as Head of Recruitment and Impact Measurement at Teach For Lebanon, a Lebanese NGO working to ensure that all children in Lebanon, regardless of socio-economic background, have access to quality education. She presents and attends many local and international leadership workshops in London, Peru, Spain, India, Bulgaria, USA and Thailand, to name just a few countries. Diana joined the Modern University for Business & Science in 2016 as a Public Health Instructor and as a Research Director in 2018. More recently she began working as Risk Communications Lead with the UK Emergency Medical Team in Beirut. She has published many academic papers and, as part of her work as Treasurer at the National Wellness Network NGO, she builds networks with municipalities and NGOs to promote public health and wellness amongst community members, especially those that are most marginalised.

We are top ranked by independent legal directories and consistently win awards.

+ View more awards