It has now been six months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. While many communities and countries are still firefighting the crisis, there has also been a clear change in the public and political narrative. Alongside managing the health emergency, many governments, including here in Canada, have begun outlining their blueprints for our social and economic recovery.
The message from people around the world to their governments is clear:
There is no going back to normal.
This is a time for radical rethinking.
We have an opportunity to change the system we all now see is broken.
At Oxfam, on one hand, we are focused on countries like India, where cases continue to climb and the deep impact of the pandemic is still setting in. On the other, we are working hard to ensure that Canada invests in a recovery that works for women, particularly the poorest, whom this pandemic has hit hardest.
This summer, Oxfam’s research estimated that by the end of the year, as many as 12,000 people could die each day because of hunger linked to COVID-19. We also analyzed the predictable and destructive impact that under investment in the care economy would have on the well-being of women around the world.
We continue to program in over 90 countries globally to mitigate against the social and economic impact of this pandemic. Our work is guided by the analysis that while COVID-19 is a public health emergency, it is also amplifying global gender and economic inequalities to crisis levels.
In the Philippines, thanks to Government of Canada support, we are providing additional services through our sexual health empowerment program, launching new mobile clinics and distributing dignity kits to women and girls in need. In Bangladesh, with our partner Mari Naitree, we are providing domestic workers who were shut out of work due to the lockdown with food, hygiene kits and information about their rights. In Guatemala, our partner Asociación Nuevo Horizonte is adapting its local radio communications campaign to address domestic violence, focusing its messages on vulnerable Indigenous women facing violence in the home as a result of COVID-19 confinement.
We have been working alongside our feminist allies, global coalitions, community groups, environmental activists and think tanks to develop and advocate for an ambitious recovery plan – in Canada and around the world. Never has it been clearer that our economy works in favour of the few, not the many. Never have we had such an opening to change that. We are supporting the Just Recovery for All Movement and applaud the Feminist Recovery Plan. It is also an essential moment to strongly affirm that a new, more human, more feminist, economy is also inherently one that redresses the impact of the climate crisis. For that reason, we are advocating to ensure that Canada’s Green New Deal is a feminist one. At this critical juncture, Canada cannot turn its back on the world. The world needs Canada to step up its humanitarian commitments globally and continue to inspire global support and solidarity from people across our country. Canada must also contribute to global recovery efforts in a way which is feminist, sustainable and puts human rights at the centre.
Our power lies with those we stand alongside: the women’s rights activists and organizations fighting to protect their communities and pushing for a just future. We are deeply committed to supporting them through our advocacy and our global programs. We stand with them in demanding a system that protects and works for the many, not just the few.
Let’s work on this together.
We are on the brink of very real change.
Kate Higgins is Oxfam Canada's Interim Executive Director.