PACS - Being locked up? Female experiences and collective engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic

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The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted and reinforced existing societal conflicts, vulnerabilities and inequalities. Multiple studies show that women were affected disproportionately by the pandemic, carrying the multiple burdens of work, childcare and domestic duties, and facing increased risks of job loss and domestic violence.

The project BELOW explores female strategies to deal with these uneven effects of the pandemic by critically examining women's experiences and female engagement during and after the Covid-19 Lockdown 2020 in South Tyrol. BELOW explores, first, how women from a variety of backgrounds (employed, unemployed, with/without children and with/without migration background) experienced the unexpected and strict Lockdown imposed by the Italian Government on March 9th 2020 and analyses the diverse range of coping strategies they used. Secondly, the project analyses how existing female-led associations and networks responded to the changes brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, which new movements or networks emerged to respond to the crisis and why, and what support they offered to women during the pandemic.

The interdisciplinary project team, composed by the PACS team and political scientists and sociologists from the University of Bozen, adopted a qualitative approach to explore these issues, using semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The analysis of the data was based on the methodological approach of grounded theory (Bryant and Charmaz, 2010) and thematic content analysis according to Mayring (2015).

The study found that women were not mere victims of the pandemic, but emerged as important actors during this time of crisis: traditional and newly created women-led movements, advocacy groups and networks went to the streets, engaged in acts of solidarity and mutual help, exchanged information and ressources, and sought to advance sustainable change. Traditional women’s organisations had to develop new strategies to reach and engage their members during lockdown, resulting in deep-reaching transformations.

By analysing female collective engagement during a crisis, BELOW highlights instances of bottom-up responses to crises and societal conflicts which exist alongside, and often in tension with, official, top-down responses of governments and their advisors. By exploring the strategies and mechanisms women employ to collectively deal with such crises, the project BELOW contributes to understanding how women imagine and shape a future which is gender-aware and inclusive of minorities’ voices.

Scientific Output

Gendering the pandemic: Female collective action during the Covid-19 Lockdown

Mitterhofer J (2022)

Conference: "Critical Margins. Politicizing the Crisis" ESA RN 25 on Social Movements and ECPR Standing Group on Participation and Mobilization Midterm Conference | Trento | 15.6.2022 - 17.6.2022

BELOW – being locked up: Erfahrungen und kollektives Engagement von Frauen während der Covid-19 Pandemie =
BELOW – being locked up: Esperienze e impegno collettivo delle donne durante la pandemia di Covid-19
Wisthaler V, Lintner C, Machado Davila K, Mitterhofer J, Schönthaler S, Wonisch K (2021)
Bozen: Eurac Research ; UNIBZ
Project Team
1 - 4
Kerstin Wonisch

Kerstin Wonisch

Team Member


1 - 3

CUTE Autonomy

ABI - Cultural and Territorial Autonomy

Duration: - Funding: Internal funding EURAC (Project)

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