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The effect of lockdown on women II – A livelihoods consideration

LESEGO NSWAHU NCHUNGA
In the last piece, we started exploring the ways in which lockdown impacts women differently form men. Specifically, it was suggested that “livelihoods” be used as a measure, alternative to others.

The ways in which care work has increased significantly, for women, was explored, and so was the increase in the numbers of domestic violence cases. It was suggested that this hinges on and also impacts the ways in which women are affected economically, by the lockdown. This is not to say the lockdown was a bad idea for women. Rather, it is a suggestion that in a state of public emergency, the needs of those most vulnerable to violence need to be protected and considered the most critically. It is a further suggestion that the imposition of the lockdown on all, in the same way, without giving thought to the ways in which is will affect those who are already at the risk of violence, was the mistake. It keeps us in a constant state of reacting and responding to gender-based violence, when we are fully aware of its extent of said violence, in our jurisdiction. Botswana ought to have figured out ways to ensure the independence of women and their reduced oppression for times such as these.

Livelihoods encompass people’s capabilities, assets, income and activities, required to secure the necessities in life. In essence, it refers to their means to securing the basic necessities. A livelihoods approach identifies programmes based on priorities and goals, defined by the people themselves. The pandemic has affected the right to livelihoods for most people in our country, resulting in government needing to intervene. This extends to the right to the opportunity to gain one’s living by freely choosing work, safe conditions for work, fair wages, as well as equal remuneration for work of equal value.

It was promised that the two issues explored last week will be interrogated more. With the above background, we will now look into the increased carework for women, during the lockdown.

In a pandemic, unique windows of opportunity present themselves when considering intervention.  There is need to concertedly support  the early recovery of those most adversely affected, creating the basis for self sufficiency, as well as future development interventions.

By planning early recovery interventions, much sooner, in a state of emergency, the risk of relief funding becoming an alternative to development can be averted. It is an opportunity to promote and ensure gender equality, so that the Botswana we re-build is better than the former. A gender-blind consideration of interventions is deleterious for women, and does little to advance some of the good work which has been carried out, so far on women’s equality and economic justice. It was therefore rather strange and disheartening to observe the silence of the Minister of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi, during the last two parliament meetings. One would have expected that she, holding the national portfolio for gender justice in the

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country, would specifically have advanced a need to focus on women economic justice during a time such as this. The realization that our leadership is far more removed from its people than initially anticipated, hit us quite hard.

Women’s economic justice is not a novel concern. The need for it has existed for as long as capitalism has. Capitalism exploits women differently and more aggressively than men. It has been offered that the liberation of women from this state of being, Presently, while the world is figuring out so many other things, the development of a self reliant woman, should be paramount. It cannot be overstated that women are the face of poverty in our present lived reality. This is to say, all things which affect humanity, affect women more intensely.

Livelihood strategies would have strengthened the productive capacity of all people, during this time. In many instances, some may argue “Working from home” was a solution and that with connectivity, people could be as productive as they would be in their work spaces. Besides this being an elitist position (because connectivity is quite class centred in our country), working from home does not look the same for a woman who is already on the double work shift, as for a man.

The information to even start thinking about suggesting the design of a gender-responsive programme, is not readily available. The needed information includes the total number of household/family members disaggregated by sex, the number of single woman headed households, the number of single man headed household, and the number of households headed by children. The population demographic helps with the understanding of how to target the programme.

The other consideration is the type of access and control of livelihood assets women and men have, and how this has been affected by the lockdown conditions. It is well known that in responses to emergencies, it is usually the women’s coffers and control which is depleted first, as it is considered more disposable. There is need to think about the main assets needed for a sustainable livelihood, and how they have been affected by the state of public emergency. The practices of the different sectors within which people work is critical to these considerations as well as the skillsets of the men and women. The cultural and social roles are also of paramount consideration as explored in the previous piece. In addition to what was explored, the power dynamics have to be critically observed, as well as resources in the home.

It is likely that on the other end of this state of emergency, and specifically, the lockdown, that women will be a lot more dependent, and marginalized socio-economically, than before. Our government would do well to consider this in intervening.



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