Each August, we celebrate women. We point out their strength, their achievements, their invaluable contributions; in the case of GO GEORGE, often in a so-called “man’s world”.
In August 2020, everybody was still in shock and hoping to beat the virus within a few months. This year, women’s voices sound different. Some talk of hope, of caring, of doing what’s got to be done. Others don’t see light at the end of the tunnel; actually, they don’t see the end of the tunnel.
Unlike previous years when it was interesting and enlightening to sit around a table with a number of female bus drivers, for instance, GO GEORGE now requested feedback from female staff members about their experience of womanhood during the Covid-19 pandemic via a short list of questions.
Most of the women who have responded, work shifts, from as early as 04:30 in the morning, only getting home after 20:00 when they start later. Many are single mothers. Most have a support system for their children’s care, be it a grandmother, neighbour or elder siblings, or husbands when their work hours allow. However, many still need to help children with “lockdown schoolwork” after they get home, on top of daily household duties. Noticeable was how many taught their children who couldn’t attend school for long periods of time, how to carry out essential household chores.
“I just find it sad to tell my children they cannot go play with friends. We try to keep them busy indoors, but it’s not easy, and it’s not good,” one mother said. Without exception, they try to answer their children’s many questions and to keep their hopes up, that life will get better and easier again, that “this too shall pass”.
Many remain positive. “I can’t wait for Covid-19 to get over and done with. I can summarise the past year as me being retrenched by a previous employer, employed again, becoming a promoter of good hygiene, a teacher, infected (asymptomatic), but refusing to get tired, and defined by my desire to be even more!”
Those with younger children struggle from time to time: “2021 is a very hard time for me as I have to leave my kids alone at home because they are doing turns at school and the aftercare is closed due to Covid,” says a mother of two children, aged eight and 12.
Depending on their personal circumstances, some struggle to stay positive. “I don’t see any future anymore, no hope and no dreams. I am worried about my child’s future.”
Apart from one young woman, those interviewed are all mothers, some single, some wives or partners, daughters to their parents, and pillars in their communities.
Stanley Fortuin from George Link says the perseverance and courage to face all the challenges of a bus driver is handled with grace and responsibility by their female drivers. “Although they admit that it is some days harder than others, they still find a balance between motherhood, being a wife and their profession. You will seldom hear our ladies complain and we really want to thank every one of them this month, for the incredible contribution they make in their personal lives to their families as well as their vital service to our community.”
“The women working for GO GEORGE are specialists in their respective fields, dedicated workers who keep the wheels of the bus service rolling,” says James Robb, GO GEORGE Manager. “We celebrate, salute and applaud our female staff for their contribution to our service, the way in which they carry out their duties under the most difficult and uncertain circumstances, always going the extra mile. Because every step these days is a marathon.”
GO GEORGE asked:
What does it feel like to be a woman in 2021?