Another week into another lockdown, 2021 is already feeling like another year for bad news. But while positivity may still feel very hard to come by, knowledge is power.


That’s why, each week, we’ll continue to round up the stories you need to know about. They’re not always the events that make the front page. Rather, these are the headlines we think women who rise need to be aware of.


UK trial examines effectiveness of mixing COVID vaccines

Image: Hakan Nural/Unsplash


A trial which aims to examine the effectiveness of using different vaccines for first and second doses has begun in the UK.


The programme aims to establish whether vaccine efficiency is impacted positively or negatively by mixing jabs.


Experts believe the approach could potentially improve protection, as well as providing more flexibility for the vaccine rollout by mitigating potential supply disruption.  


Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government’s taskforce had allocated around £7 million to fund the study, but insisted the UK’s approach would not change until at least the summer, regardless of the outcome.


Boris Johnson under pressure over “shocking” new coalmine plans

Image: West Cumbria Mining Company


The UK government is facing mounting pressure from environmental experts over its decision to support the creation of a new coalmine in Cumbria.


Development experts, scientists, green campaigners and a host of government advisors are among those who say ministerial support for the scheme is contradictory and harmful.


It comes as the UK prepares to host COP26, the most important UN climate summit since the Paris Climate Accord was signed in 2015.


Here, ministers will push for support from other nations for a fresh deal on reducing carbon emissions – seemingly while backing the UK’s first new deep coal mine in three decades.


The renowned climate scientist James Hansen this week wrote to Boris Johnson, saying the plan shows “contemptuous disregard” for young people, while Sir David King, the UK’s former chief scientific adviser, described it as “a big mistake.”


UK cabinet ministers to be granted paid maternity leave

Image: Stefan Rousseau/AP


The UK government is set to push through a legal change to ensure cabinet ministers are entitled to paid maternity leave.


The move is to be hurried through parliament with Labour’s cautious backing in order to allow pregnant attorney general Suella Braverman to keep her post.


Existing legislation would have seen her forced to resign if she wanted to take time off following the birth.


But MPs are facing a backlash over the decision, which will provide ministers with greater rights than members of the public or lower ranking MPs.


Labour has raised concerns that no provisions have been made for paternity or adoption leave, while the TUC has warned the bill will lead to a two-tier system that has broader implications for workers’ rights.  


Effigies burned in Delhi as farmers’ protests continue

Image: Twitter @RupiKaur


Effigies of Greta Thunberg, Rihanna and Meena Harris were burned on the streets of Delhi this week, after the trio tried to draw international attention to the plight of the country’s farmers.


It follows months of protests from agriculture workers against new laws that will loosen rules around the sale, pricing and storage of produce.


Their blockades have been met with a heavy-handed government response, with riot police and paramilitary troops deployed and internet and mobile phone services cut off.


But the intervention of celebrities this week further ignited tensions, with a toolkit posted by Thunberg aimed at helping people support the farmers’ movement now subject to a police investigation.


Leaders in the ruling BJP insist the toolkit is “evidence of international plans for attacks against India”, and have warned interference from abroad will not be tolerated.


Downing St minorities advisor offered to quit over ‘politics of division’

Image: Samuel Kasumu


Boris Johnson’s senior advisor on ethnic minorities this week quit his role, citing “unbearable” tensions in government, before seemingly being convinced to remain in post.


Samuel Kasumu, who retracted his resignation following talks with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, accused the Conservatives of pursuing “politics steeped in division”.


He also hit out at the lack of censure of equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who Kasumu said may have broken the ministerial code by criticising a young, Black journalist on Twitter last week.


A government spokesman later declined to comment on individual staff members, but insisted: “This government is committed to inclusion and bringing communities together and is the most ethnically diverse in this country’s history.”


Waterstones says “not prudent” to pay furloughed staff minimum wage

Image: Tony Monblat/Flickr


Furloughed Waterstones staff who have fallen below the minimum wage threshold have been told they won’t receive any increase to their pay until shops can reopen.


It’s after a petition calling on the chain to help top up the income of low-paid workers received more than 1,500 signatures and attracted the backing of author Philip Pullman.


The document says that the majority of Waterstones staff are employed on or near the national minimum wage, and that being furloughed has plunged them “beneath this line and into financial uncertainty”.


But the firm’s COO this week told The Guardian that while she had “great sympathy” for struggling staff, topping up salaries while stores are closed indefinitely would “not be prudent”.


Last month, industry monitor Nielsen BookScan reported that total print books sales grew by more than five percent in 2020, despite the impact of lockdown.


110,000 call for action against ‘sexist’ Tokyo Olympics chief

Image: EPA


A Japanese petition calling for action against Yoshiro Mori, the Tokyo Olympics chief who caused an international sexism row this week, has gathered more than 110,000 signatures.


The 83-year-old caused an uproar when he told a meeting with the Japan Olympic Committee that women talk too much in meetings.


He later apologised for the comments, admitting he’d faced anger from his wife, daughter and granddaughter, but refused to step down from his role.


Student activist Momoko Nojo, who started the petition for further action, said the incident had angered many people in Japan and reflected wider societal problems.


The International Olympic Committee says it has accepted the apology and considers the matter closed.


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