As we embark on the journey of a new year, we are carrying forward the lessons of the past. The current waves of COVID-19 transmission and response requires the integration of gender analysis across peace-development-humanitarian work and the language of human security including in communication
As the COVID-19 and the climate crisis continue to wreak havoc on our bodies, our families and communities how we organise and move forward brings us many insights from the lessons of not just our immediate past but also the wisdom gained from our foremothers.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought global attention to what women have been talking about for generations that the virus spread was bound to have a gendered aspect particularly for women who provide most of the informal care within families, who work in what is still deemed as the informal economy, as well as those working as domestic workers and in the tourism sector. There was also a need to understand how women with disabilities face even greater challenges in order to access information and health services.
Days after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, it was actually the feminist movement that began sounding the alarm about the “high risk” roles played by women during the pandemic, citing estimates that between 70 to 77% of the world’s healthcare workers are women; and 83% of the social care workforce. Women, they declared, are on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19.
But there is another dimension to the COVIS pandemic that we need to address and that is women’s access to information and channels of communication to not only amplify the impact on their lives or hold response and recovery measures more accountable to women’s rights and inclusion commitments but also, to ensure women are providing recommendations as frontline experts.
Marites N. Sison highlights in a feature for WACC Global that in some cases community media, particularly women’s radio, have stepped in to fill the gap. Mama FM, a women-focused radio station serving the underprivileged in Uganda, changed its programming to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic. In Ukraine, Hromadske Radio, a non-profit radio station created new programs that focused specifically on women’s issues such as domestic violence and child care.
Women on the frontlines
In the Pacific Island country of Vanuatu, Women leaders from the indigenous Women I Tok Tok Tugeta network have been driving the COVID19 response in Vanuatu.
Following a training with the World Health Organization and the Vanuatu Ministry of Health on managing local coronavirus response, women leaders began sharing their knowledge with their communities through texting campaigns on best practices to curb the virus and by community demonstrations on proper handwashing, coughing and sneezing techniques, and safe sanitation practices. The women have reached 183 households and 915 people across Eton.
Between June – October, women leaders through the Meri Gat Infomesen team in Bougainville and Port Moresby had developed inclusive COVID19 prevention messages to reach more than 6.3 million random Digicel PNG prepaid subscribers NCD, Bougainville, Goroka, Morobe, East New Britain, West New Britain, Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, New Ireland, West Sepik, Madang and surrounding areas!
In both countries, the messages were developed and transmitted in local language.
Both these initiatives by partners of the Pacific based Shifting the Power Coalition and are in line with the recommendations published in http://actionaid.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/STPC-AdvocacyReport2020-FINAL-pages.pdf
As we head into the 3rd year of living with the pandemic it is disappointing that women remain excluded from decision making processes that shape sustainable prevention and response strategies to conflicts, crises, and disasters. This persists despite the commitments to women’s rights, to provide access to resources and power; for full and inclusive women’s participation in decision making.
It is one of the reasons why we – i.e., both the Shifting the Power Coalition and GPPAC are signatories to the WPS – Humanitarian Action Compact - an institutional framework that brings together WPS and YPS resolutions, the Sendai Framework, the Grand Bargain and outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit.
The WPS Agenda must shift the power and support localisation.
The adoption of UNSCR 1325 demonstrated what is possible when women, member states (governments) and UN agencies collaborate. The subsequent resolutions have enabled us to be innovative and redesign processes to address the nexus of the pillars of participation, protection, prevention and relief and recovery - tackling persistent social, economic and political barriers perpetuated by climate change and COVID-19.
UNSCR2242 is particularly significant because of its reference to human security with a specific reference to climate change and health pandemics and is an opportunity to hold the security council accountable to women, peace and human security approaches to deliver inclusive decisions in consultation with women on the frontline. The WPS and Humanitarian Action Compact – further reaffirms the need to bridge the gap between the Participation, Prevention, Protection and Relief and Recovery pillars of the WPS agenda.
Peace-Development-Humanitarian Nexus - Our lives are not siloed so why are our institutions?
Our region has been pioneering the discussion on gender analysis across the Triple Nexus. Even before COVID19, we were living with the climate crisis and the lowest level of women’s political representation - in parliament local and community government and traditional systems of decision making.
Inclusive peacebuilding requires a peace-development and humanitarian nexus approach when we think about the intersectionality of human security pillars such as the impact of climate change, health crises and the subsequent socio-economic drivers of conflict and violence.
Between 2008 and 2011, collaboration between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum through a series of consultative processes with local peacebuilders, including women, resulted in the adoption of a series of regional frameworks including the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security which informed the Boe Declaration adopted in 2018 by Pacific Forum Leaders.
It is a regional and high-level commitment that broadens the definition of security to include human security, humanitarian assistance, environmental security, and regional cooperation. It is a framework to enable key stakeholders working on the pillars of national action plans to build knowledge, capabilities and understanding from the field to the policy table that ultimately increases women’s leadership and engagement and the application of WPS across the development, security and humanitarian sectors.
This commitment is important because it elevates the concerns and priorities of local women peacebuilders communicated into a regional agreement instead of these being siloed.
- A gender transformative approach is everywhere in the Boe Declaration. It is not only reflected through inclusive language but also through expanding the concept of security to specifically include human security and shifting the idea of national security from the ‘hard security’ male realm, to include many domains occupied by women, such as food markets.
- The Declaration affirms that climate change is the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. This is what women have seen and demonstrated through our own research
- The Plan explicitly states that countries must eradicate gender-based violence and provide space for the participation of women in security processes, and includes measures to evaluate success.
The Way Forward
To fully leverage the transformative capacity of the WPS Pillars Participation, Prevention, Protection, Relief and Recovery we need to shift away from political strategies that perpetuate military responses and the “securitization” of the WPS agenda.
A Triple Nexus approach is not business as usual:
- it requires proper system-wide institutionalization of accountability that enables learning across the peace, humanitarian and development nexus actors;
- it requires enhanced coordination with a focus on addressing the drivers and root causes of conflict with a focus on locally informed preventative action infused into humanitarian action;
It is an opportunity to progress a more representative, intersectional and inclusive political space i.e., a system-wide institutionalization of accountability to the WPS agenda.
- Equitable and flexible funding for each stage, each actor, at each level of response with a specific focus on dedicated funds for diverse women and young people through regional and local coalitions and networks. Such an approach can ensure the needs of women working across the “triple nexus” are integrated in diplomacy, policies and funding opportunities in bilateral aid such as the one provided through the embassies as well as through multilateral funding such through the UN; it requires a specific focus on dedicated diverse women and young people by investing in building and sustaining regional and local coalitions and networks;
- Building on the grassroots diverse women's capacities to bring gender-sensitive and intersectional approach to addressing the specific area of work on climate security to enhance a women, peace and human security approach;
- Sustaining our coalitions and civil society networks because we need the diversity of networks to tackle the multiple socio-economic and political realities; exchange and learning opportunities between policy makers and women activists (working on peacebuilding, mediation, conflict prevention)
We don’t need any more commitments – instead:
- Enable us to drive Just, Inclusive and Transformative Local Action by investing in our innovative action, strengthening collective action to hold political power accountable
- Work with us to redesign stakeholder processes – to reaffirm and sustain our networks, agency, abilities and innovations – and overcoming homogenization of women and young people
- Be prepared to shift the power for inclusive local action – not homogenizing local actors but investing in dedicated spaces for inter-generational, cross-gender and multistakeholder engagement. To build stronger institutions, feminist movement, climate action and peacebuilding networks.
In 2022, let’s recommit to drive sustainable transformative change.
To demand greater accountability to treaty obligations to our rights !
To dismantle patriarchy!
To enable power sharing in community spaces, local governance systems, parliaments and multilateral processes– because – change is necessary and possible from the mat to the policy table.