Feminist approaches to COVID-19 response
As of the end of June 2020, Coronavirus has infected over 10.7 million people perishing over 516 thousand across the world (Worldometers, 30 June 2020). Many developed and underdeveloped nations are undergoing one of the most challenging global health crises that have disrupted the world economy and unleashed primary structural incompetence. The COVID-19 virus has laid exposed the destructive legacy of neoliberalism in all its fractions and divisions. The biggest neoliberal economies- the US, UK, and even EU have failed its citizens through its callousness and clinging to its system.
The inefficacy of the world’s leading government to manage the virus even after seven months of its first appearance in China is a clear picture of lackluster in prioritizing its citizens’ needs. The containment measures mostly just required high alertness and immediate response to a broader extent strengthening universal health support systems and frontline activities. However, the tendency to capitalize health care system, competition of superiority over solidarity, the ‘herd-immunity’ strategy leaving the elderly, weak and those with fragile health as disposable, and the lack of inclusive, people-centric planning have all led to the disastrous recession promising collateral damages to most vulnerable groups of societies.
That is why this is a high time the world introduces feminist approaches to its system. We want a #feministbailout from the pandemic.
Apart from destructive health care management and a major economic crisis, the world also witnessed layers of horrific impacts on the poorest, socially and culturally marginalized, and indigenous and gender minorities across the world. The pandemic hit the hardest to the frontline workers comprising 70% of women in the health sector, the domestic sector, and informal economies. Women were bound to undertake an enormous amount of unpaid labor hampering their hard-earned economic status. Low-wage workers, migrant workers, and refugees are being the most direct victim to not only infection but also states’ negligence. As a result, World Bank projects, over 170 million, are likely to be additional poor populations in the world.
At the same time, while the pandemic highlighted disruptive features of current governance that put masculine features like aggression, forcefulness, and surveillance strategy on a pedestal, it also brought to light the necessity and efficacy of feminine power in leadership. The responsive measures undertaken by countries such as Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan and Finland with female leaders and their success in containing the pandemic altogether has been a breakthrough validation for having more women in a leadership position.
As such, there is a higher need for a model that puts people from all strata in the center and is responsive to environmental and social needs. A model that upholds human rights and climate justice. A model that is equal to women. A model that recognizes the underlying gender-based and racial disparities and its impact on national economies. A model that is sustainable, green, and just that smashes patriarchy and unequal power distribution. As we find ourselves in a critical stance with a need of not just response and recovery, but also for a high chance to bring significant model reformation, we want a model that is feminist.
Some key factors to ensure feminism in recovery model are:
First and foremost, the reformed model should lie on the ground of equality, the belief system that every individual, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, religion, disability, age, or social status, is valuable and entitled to fundamental human rights. The feminist model should acknowledge the range of inequities prevailing in society and bring up measures uplifting the marginalized ones while securing equality for every group of people.
Further, on the road to recovery from the pandemic, the approaches to be undertaken by governments must realize that the virus has hit some people harder than others. Women, people with disabilities, people without a safe home, frontline workers, and those working in exploitative working conditions are among the most affected ones. Simultaneously, the economic crisis has also resulted in a higher impact on women and marginalized people with more job loss and less economic security. The recovery approach must ensure proper integration plans to the economic market for those who have suffered the most. Some of the ways include prioritizing vulnerable communities for work, providing insurance, social security, and benefits in all kinds of works, government’s support policies to startups and local businesses to enhance sustainability, and ensuring paid sick leave for workers and funding emergency child care for all workers.
Now, more than ever, more robust policy and legal provisions are required to tackle the increasing rate of sexual and physical violence against women, girls, and children. The feminist approach must ensure to build a system of safety where all rounds of institutions- health, legal, social, and educational must conspire to build an environment free of violence. The approach must aim to mitigate the endemic-caused violence impacts while focusing on building a sustainable system where the victim gets proper justice, physical and psychological support, and boys and men are sensitized about toxic masculinity and rape culture.
The neoliberal-capitalistic system has contributed to the catastrophic climate change, with each year getting hotter than the previous and the world’s poor and vulnerable groups experiencing the impacts unevenly. The global warming caused by the overall economic system based on massive carbon-emitting industries will make the earth inhabitable by 2070, researchers claim. As such, the post-corona world must be envisioned climate-friendly and non-negotiable sustainability measures. The recovery model must ensure environmental safety and promoting zero-emissions and zero-waste. There is the need of approach where economic development complement and contribute to the nature protection and conservation rather than destruction.
5 reasons why COVID-19 needs a feminist approach, Oxfam. Retrieved from: https://www.oxfam.org/en/5-reasons-why-coronavirus-crisis-needs-feminist-response
Projected Poverty Impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus), World Ban, 8 June 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/brief/projected-poverty-impacts-of-COVID-19
Covid-19 responses: Why feminist leadership matters in a crisis, Elise Stephenson and Susan Harris Rimmer, 31 March. Retrieved from https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/covid-19-responses-why-feminist-leadership-matters-crisis
Opinion: We need a feminist response to this pandemic, Lina Abirafey, 11 May 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-we-need-a-feminist-response-to-this-pandemic-97119
For a Just, Green and Feminist COVID-19 Response and Recover, Veronica Montufar, 28 May 2020. Retrieved from https://publicservices.international/resources/news/for-a-just-green-feminist-covid-19-response-and-recovery?id=10779&lang=en
From COVID-19 to the End of Neoliberalism, Alfredo Saad-Filho, 29 May, 2020.Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0896920520929966
Covid-19 exposes the destructive legacy of neoliberalism, 22 April 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.guengl.eu/covid-19-exposes-the-destructive-legacy-of-neoliberalism/
Unsuitable for ‘human life to flourish’: Up to 3B will live in extreme heat by 2070, study warns, Doyle Rice, USA Today, 4 May, 2020. Retrieved from: