A just, green, feminist COVID-19 response and recovery

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A just, green, feminist COVID-19 response and recovery

In the early days of the pandemic, the #AllWomenWork Group initiated a declaration asking governments to ‘Invest in the Care Economy for a Just, Green, Feminist Covid-19 Response and Recovery.’1The full text of the statement can be accessed at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSff0XjJF_fZ1LkJ_xIvTVT_9Qg7wjQeWnRrxA9_J7qNeES7VA/viewform Endorsed by more than 125 organisations across the world, the call lays out the intrinsic connections between care work, debt, and privatisation, as well as neoliberalism and its exploitative system which usurps women’s paid and unpaid work.

The call connects the exploitation of care labour of women in everyday life to the global economic systems and the macroeconomic policies in place, which are furthered and exacerbated by the measures imposed by international financial institutions upon countries from the Global South (especially in relation to debt):

“For forty years macroeconomic policies in developing countries have followed World Bank and IMF prescription of austerity, resulting in: (i) unsustainable and unpayable debt (ii) cuts and/or freezes in public health infrastructure, research, services and staffing (iii) stripping away of all worker rights, especially targeting public health workers (iv) privatisation of health, water and sanitation services making them inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority (v) net capital flight of precious resources (vi) unsanitary housing and workplaces. Warnings to reinvest in public health systems and universal health care following successive health crises like Ebola, SARS, MERS or Zika have gone unheeded by the very institutions who claim their mandate is to support countries and finance these human rights obligations. The hollowing out of the state has left much of the response to the double disaster of the pandemic and the lockdown to the mobilisation of community spirit and voluntarism led by womxn.

While we do this work in the spirit of feminist solidarity and love, we reject the exploitation of womxn’s unpaid and underpaid labour as a low cost social safety net!”2Ibid.

As many activists and policy makers have voiced during 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic did not cause the inequalities and crises we experience; it has made them visible and in some cases aggravated them. The way to get out of these crises is not to ‘build back better’ to the ‘normal’ that we had before, but to build a more fair, just, green, and feminist future for all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the questioning of many of the conventional oppressive systems throughout the world. It has also resulted in some positive initiatives to challenge and change these systems, at least as a first step.

One such initiative was Hawai’i’s ‘Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19’. Published by Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women, this plan is based on principles of gender equality and economic justice, and begins with the sentence “The road to economic recovery should not be across women’s backs.” The report goes on to say, “Rather than rush to rebuild the status quo of inequality, we should encourage a deep structural transition to an economy that better values the work we know is essential to sustaining us.”

The report lays out very concrete steps to ensure this feminist recovery, including opposing cuts in budgetary spending (especially away from social services) “including services for domestic violence and for maternal, sexual, reproductive and mental health”.

It should be noted however that sex workers have raised concerns that policies in the plan could be used in ways that are harmful to them.


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