By Marianne Schnall

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. One year later, the world is still struggling with the myriad ways it has impacted our lives and created hardship for so many — especially women and girls, Black, indigenous and people of color and other marginalized communities.

In addition to the medical, economic and social devastation that the pandemic has caused — including the staggering loss of over 500,000 lives in the United States — throughout the year we have seen many alarming trends in the pandemic’s effects on women and girls, all of which are exacerbated for women of color: spikes in domestic violence; a departure of more than 5.4 million women from the workforce due to layoffs or the challenge of caretaking with kids out of school; millions of girls being taken out of school worldwide; and 47 million more women being pushed into extreme poverty due to the economic fallout, according to estimates from the United Nations.

Despite the challenges and inequities of the past year, we did still celebrate important milestones for women, which are worth noting as we celebrate Women’s History Month: the historic election of Kamala Harris as the first woman, first Black and first South Asian vice president; the transformative impact of Black women organizers and voters; the efficacy in the handling of the pandemic by women-led countries; and the women heroes on the front lines of this pandemic — from healthcare and essential workers to caretakers and scientists at the forefront of vaccine development.

At a time when the world is realizing the vital perspectives and leadership of women, which includes the long overdue recognition of the powerful and essential influence and leadership of women of color, now is the time to be proactive to ensure their rights are protected, their needs are met, and that they are supported during these challenging times.

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