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.

 

WTO calls for urgent UK vaccine donations

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The G7 nations, including the UK, will increase their contributions to the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative, following talks on Friday aimed at speeding up the global rollout.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK planned to donate most of its surplus supply to poorer nations.

 

But the new head of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has urged ministers to act now, and not wait until the country has stockpiled excess doses.

 

She told BBC Radio 4 yesterday “it’s in the self-interest of both rich and poor to have equitable access to vaccines otherwise all counties lose; all people lose.”

 

Matt Hancock acted unlawfully over COVID contracts

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Matt Hancock’s failure to publish multibillion-pound coronavirus government contracts within a 30-day timeframe required by law was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

 

The judgement is a victory for the Good Law Project, a non-profit group that has launched a series of legal challenges to the government’s PPE procurement process.

 

The Health Secretary’s department is believed to have spent around £15bn on PPE by early October, but only £2.68bn worth of contracts were published as required.

 

The judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, described the breach of transparency laws as unlawful, adding the pressure of the pandemic was “an excuse, not a justification.”

 

The Good Law Project welcomed the ruling , saying it could prove significant for its other legal challenges.

 

MPs to challenge ‘lenient’ five-year sentence for killing wife

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Domestic abuse campaigners and MPs including Harriet Harman and Jess Philips are challenging the sentence handed to a man who admitted strangling his wife to death.

 

Anthony Williams was this week jailed for five years for killing his wife Ruth as she tried to escape their home during an argument, five days into the first lockdown.

 

The 70-year-old admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, admitting he “snapped” but saying he was feeling anxious and depressed about lockdown.

 

Judge Paul Thomas said he accepted Williams’ mental state was “severely affected at the time”.

 

But Phillips tweeted, “Good job he didn’t lie on a form about where he was travelling from because that’s ten years. Snapping and killing your wife obviously less concerning.”

 

Self-employed mothers’ sex discrimination case rejected

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The charity Pregnant Then Screwed has lost its legal challenge against the government over its refusal to recognise maternity leave in its self-employment support scheme.

 

The group had argued that the SEISS rules amounted to indirect sex discrimation, by leaving around 75,000 mothers with less money than those who had not taken maternity leave.

 

But on Wednesday, the charity’s legal challenge, calling for the scheme to be reviewed, was dismissed in court.

 

Pregnant Then Screwed has described the ruling as “fundamentally flawed”, and says it is now considering its options for appeal.

 

UN calls on UAE to prove Princess’ wellbeing

Image: Tiina Jauhiainen

 

Dubai’s royal family says Sheikha Latifa is safe and “being cared for at home”, after the BBC obtained videos in which she claimed she was being held captive.

 

The UN human rights agency this week called for proof of the princess’ wellbeing, but the statement from the UAE leadership contained no photo or video evidence.

 

Latifa tried to escape Dubai in 2018, but was seized on board a boat off the coast of India and returned to the emirate, where she says she has imprisoned and left fearing for her life.

 

Her family insists she is mentally unwell and under medical care ­– but the UN has now intervened to call for proof of life, amid mounting concerns for her safety.

 

One in five female doctors concerned about PPE fit

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A staggering one in five female doctors say they have concerns over the fit and suitability of the PPE they’re wearing at work.

 

New figures from the BMA have highlighted the level of concern over protective clothing, which is generally designed to fit men, despite 75 per cent of NHS workers being women.

 

Of 7,000 healthcare workers surveyed, 20 per cent of women said they have no confidence in the fit-testing of their protective equipment as fears mount over new variants.

 

Just 13 per cent of male workers said they’d had similar concerns.

 

The BMA has called for urgent action from the government, saying the situation is putting health workers at risk of coronavirus, as well as sores, skin infections, eczema and ulcers.

 

Facebook under fire over Australian news ban

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Facebook is facing growing international criticism over its decision to block news content from its platform in Australia amid a row with the country’s government.

 

Ministers there want to impose a new law forcing tech giants to pay for news content on their platforms, in a bid to fund quality public interest journalism.

 

But Facebook says the law “fundamentally misunderstands” its relationship with publishers, and has instead hit back by blocking news platforms, including some providing critical health information.

 

The row has since gone global, with a host of other nations, human rights organisations and international publishers branding Facebook’s actions “irresponsible” and “bullying”.

 

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