This session titled “Economic Recovery in the MENA Region” is part of a series of five webinars organized by the Political Feminism and Gender Office at FES between the months of June-August, 2022 which brought together guest speakers, feminist activists and experts from the region to reflect on and provide feminist recommendations and alternatives to the post-Covid era. The discussion was moderated by Samah Krichah, Programme Officer at Kvinna till Kvinna, and included the two following panelists:
A sneak peek into the panel: During the Covid-19 pandemic, an explosion of inequalities occurred worldwide as more accumulation of wealth happened in the first two years of the pandemic than in the last 14 years. According to a study by Oxfam, during the pandemic, billionaires’ wealth in the MENA region increased by 23% while the bottom 90% of people experienced a drastic drop in wealth.
The status quo of women and LGBTQA+ community was dire for many long before the pandemic, whether from a human-rights or a socio-economic perspective. This was drastically exacerbated during the pandemic, which increased public debt and relied heavily on public workers for mitigation and containment efforts, further deepening gender inequality and the gender gap. It left women working in the public sector -but also those working in the informal sector or undertaking underpaid or unpaid care work- severely impacted, and under cold indifference from governments.
According to panelists, the social and gender repercussions of the pandemic are still persisting to-date, and cannot be tackled as long as the prevailing policy patterns remain intact and the governments’ lack of political will to implement more progressive laws persists.
Recommendations for action included a shift from austerity to more public spending and from regressive to progressive taxation. Suggestions also included gendered trade justice, where governments would increase tariffs on products produced locally, especially those produced by women.
Panelists recommended implementing a Gender-Responsive Budget (GRB) that reflects on social services and on public spending in a gender-sensitive and -responsive way through different mechanisms such as recognizing informal labor and including unpaid care work in spending budgets.
Another recommendation tackled enforcing transparency and accountability mechanisms for the private sector to ensure corporate social-responsibility as well as gender-sensitivity.
In general, panelists called for more organizing and activism to demand a change in the economic system away from an extractive to a more protective care economy.