The Muslim Women Council has commissioned a report on the impact of the lockdown on Muslim Women across the UK.

The aim of the study was to understand the experiences of Muslim women in the UK during the lockdown, on issues ranging from home-schooling children and the impact on mental & physical health, to finances, views on government handling of the crisis and challenges to civil liberties.

The survey was conducted between 18 May and 27 July 2020, during which time 122 Muslim women undertook the survey from across the UK. The participants were aged between 16 and 69, with the three most common ethnic backgrounds being Pakistani (64.8%), White British (10.7%) and Indian (9.8%).

The study found that personally 52 participants or 42.6 % reported a significant negative impact on personal relationships during the lockdown period.

The lockdown impacted the mental and emotional wellbeing of nearly two thirds of participants or 61.5%, with the most common effects being stress, anxiety and loneliness.

A similar number of participants 65.6% saw a negative impact on their physical wellbeing. Weight gain due to lack of exercise, physiotherapy appointments being cancelled and restrictions on movement were the biggest factors.

86.1% of participants felt lockdown impacted their experience of Ramadan this year.

Positive impacts included closer family interaction, more focus on spirituality and on personal reflection, while the lack of community interaction, no iftar get-togethers with friends/family and mosques being closed has been negative for others.

In terms of employment, the research suggested the lockdown negatively impacted the employment status of nearly 1 out of 5 participants 17.2%, with many losing their jobs, having to cope with reduced salary due to company issues and being placed on furlough. Over a third of participants, 39.3% experienced a negative impact on their finances, due to work being

limited, higher costs with children being at home, reduction in salary and losing jobs.

A large proportion of the women 86.1% or 105 faced significant challenges during lockdown; separating work & home life, being unable to see family members, homeschooling, lack of exercise, depression, isolation, lack of coping mechanisms, anxiety about returning to the workplace, adapting to virtual meetings & social distancing. 26.2% of participants required support with shopping and other tasks during the lockdown, with the majority of help 82.3% provided by family and friends.

There was also an increase in dependency on foodbanks, mental health services and financial support services.

Muslim Women Council Think Tank meeting
Credit: Muslim Women Council

For the 71.3% of participants with children, the areas that presented the most challenges were homeschooling/education (64.8%), emotional wellbeing (62%), keeping children occupied (59.2%) and physical wellbeing (50.7%).

The parents struggled with issues such as lack of understanding with schoolwork, difficulty in enforcing lockdown rules with older children, lack of motivation in children, boredom and behavioural issues.

When asked about sending their child/children back to school/college/university, many did not feel comfortable:

With participants saying they were not happy as there is still a very big risk at the moment, as a lot of the children have key worker family members and although they may not have COVID-19 they could be carriers.

Others felt children should go back saying It’s crucial children get an education or otherwise they will struggle with future exams.

When discussing how the pandemic has been handled 9 out 10 women felt dissatisfied with the government’s approach.

With them saying that the Information has been confusing & the government strategy doesn’t make sense. Misinformation and changing rules have been frustrating and worrying. Action to stop the virus was taken too late and is being eased too soon. The demonisation of certain sections of society like false claims around Muslims and our places of worship. Yet nothing said about Congo to celebrate VE day. The double standards are sickening.

6 out of 10 women felt their human rights are being challenged by the government with them saying the easing of lockdown has been too soon and too open.

Because of the Government’s hesitation and lack of clarity, tougher restrictions might have to be brought in, to ensure the application of the lockdown, but also some of the restrictions didn’t make sense and caused people to break them.

They feel certain laws are being passed that will take away our civil liberties. They feel they’re being pushed towards a cashless society and there is a lot of scaremongering which will cause people to give up their rights because they’re being told what they have to do in order to, literally, survive this virus.

Looking to the future the survey found the women were happier with them saying they are more grateful for friends. They have more appreciation for relationships, and the lockdown has led them to work on their spiritual growth.  They also have gained a new perspective on valuing time, family and good health.

Bana Gora, CEO of Muslim Women’s Council spoke about the findings saying:

Our aim is to ensure that new relevant research is produced directly by Muslim women on issues that they feel are important to them & their communities, building trust between communities and research institutes. The evidence, recommendations and solutions generated by them will be used to demonstrate how the government and both the public and private sectors can help create conditions that allow Muslim women to thrive. The results indicate many common concerns and experiences amongst Muslim women across the UK.