By Evelyn Osagie
In a COVID-19 care economy, laws enforcement, social protections, synergy and self-care are essential to gender justice, advocates have said.
They charged stakeholders to ensure the enforcement of relevant laws, social protection, cooperation and self-care for care givers. This is crucial if those working in the paid and unpaid care economy are to contribute effectively to COVID-19 and post COVID-19 recovery efforts in Nigeria and globally.
These recommendations were made at a virtual event, tagged: “Care Dialogue”. It was organised by Red Eyes Development Initiative (REDi), a gender rights, environmental justice and sustainable development advocacy organisation, in partnership with the Centre for Conflict and Gender Studies (CCGS), University of Port Harcourt.
Speakers highlighted the heightened vulnerabilities of women as caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, while focusing on paid and unpaid care at home: caring for children, the infirm/sick and the elderly; caring as vulnerable women: SGBV victims/survivors, widows, single parents, and economically poor; care in the frontlines of COVID-19: doctors, nurses, etc.
The Dialogue, which held on Zoom and was streamed live on facebook.com/redeyesnetwork, had as speakers, eminent women’s rights and gender justice advocates and activists, Dr. Heoma Nsirim-Worlu (Acting Director, Centre For Conflict And Gender Studies (CCGS), University of Port Harcourt), Dr. Vetty Agala (President, Medical Women Association, Rivers State Branch), and Mrs. Loretta Ahuokpeme (Executive Director, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative OLPHI).
In her submissions, Dr. Nsirim-Worlu advocated for women leaders to synergise and for families to operate on equilibrium where care is not a gender specific activity, calling on policy makers, decision makers and law enforcement agencies to do due diligence in ensuring a level playing field for all genders and vulnerable groups, especially in accessing justice. She said: “We should socialise our children to understand that everyone at home is important. If boys and girls are taught to contribute equally from the home, these abuses of caregiving responsibilities will reduce”.
Dr. Agala was of the opinion that COVID-19 is a viral disease which has abruptly affected every aspect of human endeavour including caregiving. She encouraged “women and girls to break the culture of silence”. “We need to speak up and make our voices heard, and we need to rally round one another. It might take time for government and policy makers to intervene, but individuals, civil society organisations and institutions must form alliances and rally to help and provide care for vulnerable women,” she said.
According to the Director of REDi, Ekaete George, the care dalogue was organised because of the organisation’s conviction that gender justice is at the heart of recovery from COVID-19 and rebuilding a post-COVID-19 care econom. She added that REDi is committed to important dialogues and conversations to promote gender justice and sustainable development efforts of other stakeholders.
On her part, Mrs. Ahuokpeme noted the spike in sexual and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. She reported that in working with women in communities, she found that caregiving responsibilities, though they have disproportionately increased, are being carried out by many women while they are also facing gender-based violence. She called upon law enforcement agencies to give prompt interventions and a human face by responding to cases of abuse against women on a case by case basis.
Other participants at the event, who made various contributions, were in agreement that a gender responsive approach to paid and unpaid care response is the surest path for recovery and towards a robust post-COVID-19 care economy. The key outcome of the #CareDialogue was that the recommendations made at the dialogue should form a basis for sustained advocacy. That support and protection for paid and unpaid care workers should be continuously canvassed by REDi, CCGS UNIPORT, other stakeholders and advocates for the protections of the rights of women and other vulnerable groups. Such efforts will promote gender justice as a measure to relieve women of the increased burden of care during and post COVID-19, and will make recovery from the pandemic seamless.