Reflections On Our Countries – March 2020 a focus on COVID-19

April 1, 2020


Image by Egyptian artist Yassin (IG:@yassindraws)

In Reflections on Our Countries RESURJ members collectively share and reflect on issues and challenges affecting sexual and reproductive health, gender, environmental and economic justice from the different regions and countries we are from. In the context of a global pandemic, the most marginalized and disenfranchised, particularly those living in the global south, as well as  women of color, black women, trans people, indigenous women, and migrant women situated in the global north are as always, the ones most affected.  With the novel coronavirus pandemic, most of the approaches taken by governments in our countries have made explicit the lack of an intersectional approach in responding to a public health crisis – whether it is by reacting with punitive measures and trumping basic human rights or by ignoring the crisis altogether and undermining the importance of social security networks and gender specific responses. As we find ourselves in this historic junction it is critical to make evident and dismantle systems of oppression that some thought were static, and reimagine a reality that reflects the interconnectedness of our struggles. When this pandemic is over, there’s no going back to normal. More than ever the alternatives and proposals put forward by intersectional feminists – from expanding social protection programs including universal basic income, to addressing the burden of care and domestic work, and the need to uplift social solidarity economics, and increased investments in universal health coverage, must be at the center of the world we want to rebuild.   In this edition we will learn more about what is happening at the country level from members in   Brazil – Egypt – Paraguay – Pakistan and from Vecinas Feministas in Argentina and Bolivia

Double Pandemic for Women and Girls

by Pamela Martin Garcia, Argentina

Whether voluntary or compulsory, social isolation is taking place in much of the world during this time and gender-based violence impacts all continents without distinction. In many parts of the world there are women, girls and adolescents who are suffering from a double pandemic: gender-based violence and COVID19.

When the government declared the mandated social isolation in Argentina, what first came to my mind were the women, girls and adolescents already in a situation of violence and abuse, forced to stay locked up in their homes with their abusers with no escape. For many women home can be a more dangerous space than the street. In multiple cases, there is no such thing as a “home sweet home”, on the contrary, home can be a space where the cruelest of violence happens. Perhaps, going out and taking the children to school, visiting the market or commuting to work meant a moment of peace sought everyday by so many. But now? The reality is dire. Additionally, the majority of child abuse cases take place at home and 75% of abusers are family members. 

This excerpt is from an article published on the Vecinas Feministas blog. To read the full article, click here.

Bolivia, COVID-19 and the right: Repression is our brand

by Andrea Terceros, Bolivia

Bolivia is no exception to other parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic came as it did in the rest of the countries that are currently facing one of the biggest health crises in recent times, if not the most serious.

The difference is that it is not reaching a country with the same conditions as those that have been facing the pandemic for more than 3 months now. It reaches a country with a large percentage of population living from informal work, the majority of whom are women, and the same number living on a day-to-day basis; with one of the most precarious health systems in the region; with one of the highest rates of sexual and feminicidal violence; and having recently suffered a civic-military coup, causing the fascist right to reinstate itself since November 2019 with Jeanine Añez as president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. 

One of the measures enforced by the Bolivian government is the total quarantine, a measure that has been effective in preventing massive infections and the collapse of health systems in other countries. It has also shown that it is not as effective if it is not accompanied by comprehensive measures to protect the historically vulnerable populations. There are people for whom staying at home is synonymous with no income and therefore, hunger; or women for whom quarantine can mean staying locked up with their batterer, or rapist, because their family and their homes are not exactly the safest places. 

This excerpt is from an article published on the Vecinas Feministas blog. To read the full article, click here.

Avoid the Streets and the Brazilian President in times of COVID-19

by Marisa Viana, Brazil

With expanding fears, tensions, and ever increasing loss of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments from around the world have taken measures to address the spread of the virus –  from social distancing, social isolation,to mandatory quarantine and in some cases complete lockdown. For the most part the announcement of the pandemic has triggered people, and in particular leaders of countries, states and cities to take preventative action. But the need to take action with the announcement of the pandemic has not been shared equally by governments, either due to denial or negligence.

In Brazil’s case, the actions taken by President Bolsonaro have been ones of total and complete negligence and carelessness in dealing with a public health crisis and putting millions of lives at risk by dismissing a viral pandemic as “a little cold” and calling actions taken by mayors and governors in Brazil as buying into “hysteria.” As of March 28th  Brazil had 4,256 confirmed cases and 136 deaths due to COVID-19.

This excerpt is from an article published on the Reflections on Our Countries blog. To read the full article, click here.

We are not in this together!

by Nana Abuelsoud, Egypt

I scroll through Facebook posts and Twitter updates with a smirk. Here is a post applauding the government’s efforts in containing the virus and limiting its spread. There is another heralding doomsday. I’m not sure where to direct my anger anymore. I don’t know how to dilute my cynicism to swallow some of the Ministry of Health updates. All I know for certain is that my anger is uncontainable. 

In crisis times like these we feel we have lost count of how many times some of us have been shouting: “social protection networks!” As more and more policies and national initiatives are implemented to avoid “promoting laziness”, we drown in online classist inquiries (divorced from reality) asking “why are there people on the streets?,” “why don’t they stay home?” Maybe because home is way too crowded? Possibly too, because they won’t have food on the table if they miss a day at work? Who will pay their bills? We fear the unknown, and it heightens with growling stomachs. Funny how this reminds me of the diplomatic masks we wear during negotiations over rights at advocacy spaces. I think of times when I witnessed tradeoffs unfolding before me; hearing phrases like: “at this point we drop X group to keep Y wording”. I witnessed policy tradeoffs being picked up by feminists, as a part of a strategic move. And I wondered why there is never enough anger in the room. 

This excerpt is from an article published on the Reflections on Our Countries blog. To read the full article, click here.

COVID-19 in Pakistan: Who will take care of the healthworkers?

by Madiha Latif, Pakistan

As numbers continue to rise at an exponential rate in Pakistan, fears and anxieties among the population are heightened, not just fearful of the spread, but fearful that the health care system will collapse, given the already limited, dilapidated infrastructure and resources attempting to serve the massive population. With limited human resources within larger facilities, and reflecting on previous strategies, one begins to wonder whether the government would loop in Lady Health Workers [LHWs} all over Pakistan, to assist in delivering care to those infected by COVID-19 in the underserved areas.

The LHWs work as community agents of change, employed in underserved and hard to reach areas, going door to door providing integrated preventative and curative health services. Being members of their communities, the theory behind this was to leverage their “peer status”, encouraging relationships and trust of the system and services.  Initially meant to provide primary health care for women and children in rural and underserved areas, LHWs have also been employed to run vaccination campaigns, hold district health meetings in communities, and act as a referral mechanism for those seeking health services. Additionally, they have been engaged in family planning initiatives, being trusted members of the community, with the ability to make door-to-door visits. Currently, 100,000 LHWs are deployed across Pakistan, serving approximately 60% of the population. 

This excerpt is from an article published on the Reflections on Our Countries blog. To read the full article, click here.

Punitivism and militarization in times of quarantine in Paraguay

by Mirta Moragas, Paraguay

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the adoption of preventive health measures in Paraguay as early as March 7th, when the first cases were made public, acknowledging the lack of capacity of our health system to adequately absorb the spurt of multiple cases at once. These measures have been considered correct and adequate in health terms, but they underline the lack of adequate social and economic responses to provide effective containment for the population, which mostly works in the informal sector, and even those with formal jobs do not have access to basic labor rights (social security, for example). In other words, the real possibility of complying with health measures relies on inter-ministerial work, which should provide real intersectoral solutions not only limited to health matters.  Yet, the reality unveils a national, departmental and municipal state, weakened by years of low social investment and corruption.

In this context, health measures have been “reinforced” with punitive strategies that lend themselves to excesses on the part of the public forces, and that strengthen the discourse around punitive measures being the only strategy that can bring real “order” in the midst of a public crisis. It is the fear of prison and police intervention –including military intervention–  that intend to bring rationality to the governed. 

This text is from an excerpt published on the Reflections on Our Countries blog. To read the full excerpt, click here.