Coronavirus pandemic: A feminist lens to fighting COVID-19

Feminists and Women's Rights Organizations have called on governments to recall and act in accordance with human rights standards in their response to COVID-19 and uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination, centering the most marginalized women, children, elderly, people with disabilities, people with compromised health, rural people, LGBT+ people, refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples, stateless people, human rights defenders, and people in conflict and war zones.

COVID-19

It also called on the governments to recognize and prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable communities.

The feminists in a statement issued to Pulse.com.gh said: "Beyond the response to this pandemic, it is necessary for the development of peaceful, inclusive and prosperous communities within human rights-driven states."

It added: "It is critical that governments utilize a human rights and inter-sectional based approach to ensure that everyone has access to necessary information, support systems, and resources during the current crisis. We have recognized nine key areas of focus to be considered in the context of the COVID-19 crisis."

The organisations also listed key guidelines and areas for a feminist policy on COVID-19 and these guidelines are not a replacement for the engagement of women and girls and other marginalized communities in decision-making, but a rationale for consultation and diversity in leadership.

Here are the key focus areas for a feminist policy on COVID-19:

  • Food security: In countries that depend on food imports, there are fears of closing borders and markets and the inability to access food. This concern is exacerbated for people experiencing poverty and in rural communities, especially women, who do not have easy access to city centers and major grocery stores and markets.
  • Healthcare: All countries expect a massive strain on their public health systems due to the spread of the virus, and this can lead to decreased maternal health and increased infant mortality rates. There is often a lack of access to healthcare services and medical supplies in rural communities. 
  • Education: The closure of schools is necessary for the protection of children, families, and communities and will help to flatten the curve so that the peak infection rate stays manageable. It, however, presents a major disruption in education and the routine to which children are accustomed. 
  • Social inequality: These exist between men and women, citizens and migrants, people with regular and irregular status, people with and without disabilities, neurotypical and neuroatypical people, and other perceived dichotomies or non-binary differences as well as racial, ethnic, and religious groups. 
  • Water and sanitation: Everyone does not have access to clean running water. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to ensure infrastructure is in place for clean, potable water to be piped into homes and delivered to underserved areas cease all disconnections and waive all reconnection fees to provide everyone with clean, potable water.
  • Access to information: There is unequal access to reliable information, especially for those structurally discriminated against and belonging to marginalized communities. People will need to receive regular updates from national health authorities for the duration of this crisis. In response to this challenge, we call on governments to launch public campaigns to prevent and contain the spread of the virus.

Consult and work with civil society in all initiatives to provide information to the public and make information available to the public in plain language and accessible means, modes and formats, including internet, radio and text messages.

  • Abuse of power: People in prisons, administrative migration centers, refugee camps, and people with disabilities in institutions and psychiatric facilities are at higher risk of contagion due to the confinement conditions. 

In response to this challenge, we call on the governments to provide and implement restrictions in relation to COVID-19 in accordance with the law. Any restriction should be strictly necessary, proportionate and in the interest of legitimate objectives of general interest.

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