“Rebuilding after a crisis opens up the chance to revisit all of the pre-existing inequalities that happened prior to the crisis itself,” shares Tonic Madulid, president of Reboot Philippines.
She is one of 15 experts who came together in Kathmandu to kick off the newest project of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Gender Justice Hub Asia. The project, titled Rebuild Beyond Exploitation, brings together policy analysts, trade unionists, academics, environmentalists, and others to evaluate the impacts of the multiple crises we have been experiencing and their impact on gender justice in the region, and to formulate a vision and policy options for a more gender-just future.
Participants of Kathmandu Policy Lab while creating transformative projects addressing gender justice issues in crisis recovery. | Photo by Suvasies Parajuli/FES Nepal
The COVID-19 pandemic has widened gender inequalities. Even before, women spent three times as many hours as men on unpaid care and domestic work, and were over-represented in poorly paid and insecure jobs.
“It cannot be just go back to the old normal. We need decent work for women, paying them living wages, secure jobs, safe workplaces, “ adds Benjamin Velasco, assistant professor at the School of Labor and Industrial Relations of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
The buzzword for COVID-19 recovery has been “build back better”. A slogan that also partially reflects the fact that the ‘normal’ we were longing to go back to was indeed not all equal and just. Therefore, one unanswered question still is: What does it mean to build back better? How does this ‘better’ look like in regard to gender equality in Asia?
Working groups are presenting the ideas for their new projects on developing policy options and practices for a more gender just future in Asia. | Photos by Suvasies Parajuli/FES Nepal
The first design lab in Kathmandu created a space to discuss these questions and to look for evidence-based policy options to tackle gender injustices in the region. Over three days, the participants from Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam shared their knowledge, experiences and ideas, eventually forming five working groups on key issues that need to be considered in the context of rebuilding after a crisis: care work, social security, climate change, well-being and world of work.
“Over the next two years, FES will support the working groups throughout every stage of their project – from ideation to implementation.” says Priyanka Kapar, programme officer at FES Nepal, who is coordinating the project. “The idea is to provide a platform for mutual learning for feminist thought leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region and through the project process enable the working groups to create innovative strategies and policy options."
Feminist selfcare activity in the morning at Kathmandu Policy Lab | Photo by Suvasies Parajuli/FES Nepal
A common thread throughout the discussions was women’s participation in government leadership. In 2020, only 20 percent of seats in national parliaments in Asia-Pacific were held by women. The same goes for management position in the private sector.
“If women aren’t included in discussions themselves but are [only] claimed to be in the discussions, then the genuineness of the solutions that are brought forward are through second-hand information rather than the narrative or the stories that women bring forward themselves,” underlines Tonic Madulid.
Otgonjargal Rentsenkhand of the foreign relations division of the Mongolian People's Party adds that when we are able to address this issue and ensure that women are in fact part of decision-making in any sector – public or private – it would widen our understanding of issues at hand and provide room for more diverse perspectives and better solutions.
Retired Pakistani Professor of Economics Aliya Hashmi Khan concludes, “I don’t suggest that a single policy would ever take care of the extent and the depth of the damage that the pandemic has caused to the lives of women, so more focused and more well-researched policies need to be implemented in order to rebuild the lives of women post-COVID.”
Now that our experts from across the Asia-Pacific have partnered up, we are confident that they will be able to design innovative policy approaches that effectively target constraints to gender equality in the region in the next two years.
Experts and colleagues from across Asia gathered in Kathmandu to kick off FES project "Rebuild beyond exploitation." | Photo by Suvasies Parajuli/FES Nepal
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