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Movement building for reform during COVID-19

2020 was supposed to be an auspicious year for gender equality. It’s Beijing+25, SDG+5, UN Security Council Resolution 1325+20. We in the women’s movement were planning launch events, critical reviews of progress, and new plans to accelerate action towards gender equality at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64), and Generation Equality in Mexico and Paris. We wanted to build a global momentum for the fact that equality can no longer wait. 

Alas, the world has taken a different direction. The COVID-19 pandemic is taking over our daily lives and attention as each one of us deals with not just a health crisis, but also economic and social crises.

As Musawah moves forward to re-design the launch of our Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws to online platforms, we are confronted with the stark reality of the gendered impacts of this global crisis. We are all supposed to stay at home – which means women’s unpaid care work multiplies, affecting the time needed to accomplish the deliverables of their paid work. We worry about reports of increased rates of domestic violence, a surge in calls to helplines, and, in some communities, a sudden silence when women can find no safe space to make the call for help. We also recognise that women make up the majority of health and social care workers; thus, in addition to caretaking families, they are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in their communities and countries.

As discussions open up and research is done on the gendered impacts of this pandemic, the findings will yet offer further evidence that:

Without equality in the home, women bear the consequences not just in their private lives, but also their public lives. This pandemic is making the case for reform of discriminatory laws and practices even more urgent. 

It will be a challenge to make our voices heard when governments focus on mitigating the health and economic impact of this pandemic, yet again pushing aside women’s issues down the ladder of priorities. But equality and justice can no longer wait. 

As we unroll our campaign throughout the year, we need to carve out the spaces needed to mobilise, to make the case for reform, to build public support for a world where there cannot be justice without equality in every sphere of life, not least in the home.

In solidarity with the people serving on the frontlines of this pandemic, and the women’s movements continuing to fight for invisibilised and silenced people, for more equal societies, and for the people simply trying to endure this new reality.

Resources and messages from our allies about COVID-19: