Amid the continuing pandemic and seemingly endless negativity, many people are avoiding the news right now. But while that might feel like a necessary safeguard from anxiety, knowledge is power.


That’s why, each week, we 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.


Tories face increased scrutiny over sleaze

Image: Phil Noble/AFP/Getty Images


Boris Johnson this week denied breaching parliamentary rules regarding the furnishing of his Downing Street flat – but repeatedly refused to confirm who paid the initial renovation bill.


The question of whether a donation was accepted to pay for work on Number 11 – rumoured to have cost up to £200k – is now under investigation by the Electoral Commission.


It’s the latest accusation of sleaze to hit the prime minister, who’s now also facing accusations he put national security at risk by refusing to change his mobile phone number, which had been available online since 2006.


Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock has been told by a High Court judge to hand over a series of WhatsApp messages relating to the awarding of PPE contracts.  


It’s the latest ruling in a series of cases raised by the Good Law Project over the way some companies were given priority VIP status when bidding for government contracts. It’s claimed companies with a direct link to officials were ten times more likely to win deals to supply PPE.


Indian government under fire over Covid surge

Image: Manish Swarup/AP


India has become the first nation to report more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 3,523 deaths reported on Friday.


The record rise in infections came as the country stepped up its vaccination efforts. All adults are now eligible for a coronavirus jab, but many states said they were already running low on supplies before the rollout.


The country’s government has been facing intense criticism over acute shortages of oxygen and hospital beds, with many states close at crisis point.


Relatives of those hit with the illness have been appealing for help on social media, but it’s since emerged Twitter and Facebook have been taking down posts critical of the government response, under orders from officials.




UK cuts aid to UN family planning by 85%


The UK Government has cut its funding to the UN population fund (UNFPA) by 85 per cent, despite warnings it will have a “devastating” impact on women and girls.


The agency says UK funding for contraceptives and reproductive health supplies will be slashed from £154 million to £23 million this year, while core funding is down from £20 million to £8 million.


The UK government insists cutting its international aid commitments is essential in the face of the economic pressures of coronavirus. But the UNFPA, which works in 150 countries across the world, estimates the cuts could result in 250,000 maternal and child deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.


UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem said the agency “deeply regrets the decision of our longstanding partner and advocate to step away from its commitments at a time when inequalities are deepening and international solidarity is needed more than ever”.


Bafta star faces sexual harassment claims from 20 women

Image: Mike Marsland/WireImage


The actor Noel Clarke has been suspended from Bafta just three weeks after collecting an outstanding contribution award, following claims of sexual harassment from 20 women.


Work on Clarke’s hit Sky series Bulletproof has also been halted, following accusations he took and shared sexually explicit videos and photos of young women without their consent.


The Guardian says it has spoken to 20 women with professional connections to the star who also accuse him of inappropriate behaviour, groping and bullying between 2004 and 2017. 


Bafta admitted it was aware of the allegations before it celebrated Clarke’s contribution to film earlier this month, but said it had not seen any evidence it could investigate. It has now suspended his membership.


Clarke, 45, who is married with three children, has denied all but one claim against him. He said he did make inappropriate comments about one woman, but had since apologised.


Study finds miscarriage rates 43% higher among Black women

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Black women are over 40 per cent more likely to suffer a miscarriage than white women, according to a new study.


The Lancet says analysis of 4.6 million pregnancies in seven countries found an average 43 per cent increased risk of baby loss among Black women.


The resulting report calls for further research as a matter of urgency, and has urged the UK – which does not collect data on miscarriage rates – to update regulations to ensure women are supported from a first pregnancy loss, rather than after three consecutive losses.


In an editorial accompanying the research’s publication, The Lancet said: “For too long, miscarriage has been minimised and often dismissed. The lack of medical progress should be shocking. Instead, there is a pervasive acceptance.


“The era of telling women to ‘just try again’ is over.”


Charities brand government’s refugee consultation ‘a sham’

 Image: Choose Love


A group of almost 200 organisations working with refugees in Britain has branded a government consultation on changes to immigration policy “a sham”.


A public statement, signed by 192 third sector groups, says the New Plan for Immigration is “vague, unworkable, cruel and potentially unlawful”.


The Home Office is consulting on plans to deport people to third countries, detain them in so-called reception centres and force them to continually reapply for the right to remain. But the statement’s signatories say the consultation, which is due to close on May 6 after just six weeks, excludes refugees because it’s been published purely online and only in English and Welsh.


The Home Office insists the consultation is being conducted correctly, and will directly involve refugees and asylum seekers.


Creationist Edwin Poots stands to succeed Arlene Foster

Image: Liam McBurney/PA


Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, has emerged as frontrunner to lead the DUP, after Arlene Foster announced her resignation as both party leader and first minister.


Poots, a creationist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, is widely believed to have led moves against Foster, and is so far the only Stormont Assembly member to confirm his candidacy.


Foster, the first woman to lead the country, announced her decision to step down on Wednesday, after 80 per cent of her colleagues signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership. It follows a tenure plagued with turmoil over everything from Brexit, which she supported, to changes in abortion law and, most recently, her decision to abstain from a vote to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’.


Poots, who has argued against gay adoption and abortion, previously caused anger when he said that, even as first minister, Foster’s most important job should remain “that of a wife, mother and daughter”.


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