On the occasion of International Women’s Day, amid the inequalities intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and government responses often captured by corporate interests and political elites, women across the world are demanding economic alternatives that center the integrity of peoples and planet, ensure gender justice and advance a new social pact on care. We believe the Covid-19 pandemic must serve as a catalyst for rethinking our public policies in line with human rights. We demand systemic change and we want it now!
In 2020, thousands of women took part in strike events and local demonstrations across dozens of countries during the Women’s Global Strike and more than 200 organisations endorsed our political statement, amplifying women’s struggles for development justice, food sovereignty, decent work and living wage. We said it loud and clear:
We want corporate abuse to stop. We want an end to gender based violence. We demand our voices to be heard and heeded and that effective mechanisms be created for the protection of women’s rights and the elimination of gender-based violence.
It is high time States develop comprehensive and holistic policies that ensure women’s full participation and the enjoyment of all the range of civil, political and economic, social and cultural fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated what women’s rights movements have been denouncing for decades: the intersecting violations and deepening crises inherent to a patriarchal, racist and capitalist system that has relegated the well-being of women and their communities behind perpetual pursuit of profit and short-term gain. The pandemic has reminded us of the central role of care work and the unfair burdens faced by women and girls. The context of deepening inequalities has sharpened the discriminations that intersect gender, race, class and identity.
Worldwide, women and girls continue to perform more than three-quarters of unpaid care work and in many developing economies the informal economy disproportionately affect women, leaving them without adequate social and economic protections such as pensions, paid sick leave, unemployment benefits, etc. The pandemic has once again proven that our economic systems depend and thrive on the backs of millions of women relegated to vulnerable or marginalized situations: women workers, migrants, landless farmers, indigenous women are among those who lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the crisis. The pandemic highlighted the fact that women move the world and that the production system relies on family organization, which depends mostly on women.
We advocate for a new and fairer new normal for women and this is why we are convinced we need a new and transformative social pact on care with key political demands aimed at redistributing, recognizing, fulfilling the rights of care givers and receivers, ensuring representation of women, and reframing the economy as a caring economy. None of this can be accomplished without the political will of those who govern.
It is high time States adopt measures to ensure decent working conditions and living wages for women.
The pandemic has also revealed public health care systems undermined by decades of privatization and commodification, often imposed via unjust debts. State responses, captured by powerful corporate and financial actors, have in turn prioritized “saving the economy” instead of ensuring human rights, labor and environmental protection. The promises of structural reforms seem to be falling into oblivion, losing a unique opportunity to rethink our societies and move further towards gender equality. According to UN Women, the pandemic will push into poverty more than 47 millions of women and girls.
It is high time States ensure universal access to healthcare services, including vaccination and establish solid mechanisms against corporate capture. We need to stop trade rules that impede the capacity of the state to address this crisis.
The pandemic has also meant a rise in violence faced by women whether it is via militarized responses to the crisis, growing surveillance and repression of women human rights defenders, or in gender-based violence with many consequences of lockdown measures on women safety and less access in protection measures.
It is high time States tackle gender-based violence, integrating the effects of the pandemic on women’s safety and security, including on the situation of women human rights defenders.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the grave situations facing many of our communities, our actions will move online this year. Because our demands and vision have never been more relevant, we will continue to organize, looking forward to being in the streets again in 2022.
Women are and have always been agents of change. In the history of humanity, women have always been at the forefront of human rights and social struggles. Connecting struggles, making the invisible visible, taking risks to advance rights for all. Women should be heard and not reduced to the mere position of passive beneficiaries of public policies, women must contribute to the making of such policies. Now than ever, we reaffirm that if women stop, the world stops.