COVID-19 has been approached differently by near-enough every country in the world. And it’s no secret that some countries have ‘won’ the war against the deadly virus better than others. New Zealand being the first to come to mind.
What makes New Zealand so different to other countries? Their Prime Minister is Jacinda Ardern, who is currently one of the world’s greatest political leaders. When she first came into office, she promised empathy – not a term we usually associate with politics. Yet she has delivered it in abundance. Her government has prioritised child poverty and social inequality. After the Christchurch mosque shooting, she swiftly introduced strict gun laws in response. Which is, with a certain country coming to mind, something not often seen in the political world.
It’s no surprise to hear that in regards to COVID-19 she acted rapidly to ensure the safety of her country. In March she set up the, ‘widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world’. She doesn’t hide behind numbers and figures, her frequent use of social media and briefings are honest in how the pandemic is affecting them economically, and more importantly, on a human level.
Jacinda doesn’t pit saving the economy against saving human lives – she knows which is most important. As I assume most women do. Other female leaders which have shown this include Germany’s Angela Merkel and Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen – it’s not surprising that these countries have some of the pandemic’s lowest death rates.
If a ‘feminist’ approach to COVID-19 is saving lives then why aren’t more political leaders doing it? I hear you ask. Some leaders may think that it’s a utopia or it won’t actually help everyone or they’re just too ignorant to even consider it. There is evidence of it working though; for example, in 2014 Sweden was the first country to adopt a ‘feminist foreign policy’. It focuses on three ‘Rs’: rights, representation and resources. It’s no wonder it’s considered the world’s best country. Other countries such as Canada, France, Luxembourg, Mexico and Hawaii have since adopted ‘feminist’ approaches to their policies, with Hawaii even implementing a feminist approach to recovering their economy.
Instead of reverting back to their ‘old ways’, Hawaii are using the pandemic as a chance ‘to build a system that is capable of delivering gender equality’. Economists estimate that the global economy loses $10 trillion every year due to women’s unpaid work. This is predominantly made up of the care sector, which is often unpaid and consistently in the lowest-paid job categories. However, as this time has shown, it is crucial to us all.
Policies that don’t put people at the forefront have struggled in this time and have seen far too many deaths. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t just commend and admire the courage of care workers, we need to show up for them and their rights. Not only will it save more women, but also more men. Something feminists have been trying to explain to men for decades.