Story from Jakarta, Indonesia: Women Supporting Women during the Covid-19 Pandemic
By Olin Monteiro
(May 2nd 2020). Despite worldwide news on Covid-19 spread in January 2020, Indonesian government had not yet understood the scale of the pandemic until we received the first patient by the end of February 2020. We even witnessed arrogant declarations of some government officials saying that Covid-19 would not enter Indonesia, but unfortunately it hit us very hard. At an individual level, I was even more devastated after I learned that one of the first two persons that got infected in my country was someone I personally knew.
Soon after Covid-19 started to spread in Jakarta, I became aware of its impact on people’s mental health. This new virus lead us to increased uncertainty and anxiety. It is not only a health rights issue, Covid-19 has diverse impacts on people in different ways. Just think on the social gap between those who can stay at home with savings and those who can’t stay at home, as they work in the informal economy and depend on their daily earnings to survive.
In this time of difficulties, many people have organized themselves to help others. Women have been able to support women and also marginalized groups such as transgender people. The Jakarta Feminist Association, an organization that I co-founded, called for donations of basic needs to distribute among women affected by the pandemic. Other women activists and feminist have been doing similar things in Jakarta and other cities.
The women’s movement in Jakarta have been calling for a comprehensive gender and equality perspective within the mitigation of COVID-19 in Indonesia since late March. Our network, Aliansi Perempuan Bangkit -Emergence Women Alliance of Indonesia, delivered a statement addressed to the government and media requesting the government to implement humanitarian programs with a gender perspective. Our demands include: 1) to allocate a gendered budget to address the pandemic, 2) to provide free facemasks, vitamins and health care for women affected by Covid-19 and their families, 3) to provide healthcare without discrimination to women and other marginalized groups such as LGBTT among others, 4) to support low-income families with basic needs while the social distancing regulation are in place, 5) to protect women frontline workers such as doctors and nurses, 6) to adopt measures to mitigate risks to domestic violence and protect the victims, 7) to provide protection gear to health workers. Our statement was based in FAR’s Feminist COVID-19 Policy that was launched few weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. We tailored it to the social context in Indonesia and disseminated it among local organizations. Twenty women’s organisations endorsed our statement.
We hope to continue seeing solidarity actions addressed to the most marginalized people in Indonesia. Our government needs to respond faster to the current challenges ensuring the programs adopted are in accordance with the international human rights and women rights standards so no one is left behind.
*Olin Monteiro is a feminist activist, writer, editor and a documentary producer. She has been working with the women’s rights movement for the past three decades in Jakarta and Eastern Indonesia. Organization: Arts for Women Indonesia/ Peace Women Across the Globe Indonesia. She is a member of Aliansi Perempuan Bangkit – Emergence Women Alliance of Indonesia.
Story from Kenya: Stronger Together
By Lucy Wanjiku Njenga
(April 2020) They say you never know your strength until being strong is the only option you have!!! In these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, this phrase holds so true and more so for girls and women. 2020 started as a great year, with all of us psyched at the possibilities that laid ahead along with the joy of welcoming a new decade. All of this has been put on hold. We are blaming COVID19, but I think this is just a reminder of all the gaps we have in the systems.
I think of women who are the breadwinners in their households and how they must continue to work to put food on the table. I think of women with abusive partners, and how the cases of violence against women and girls has and will continue to escalate as lockdowns and self-isolation continues. What is sad is that everyone is too caught up to notice. I think of the girls who found school to be their haven, but with the economic collapse at hand, they may be forced into worse circumstances and injustices, like early marriages.
Also, I wonder how new mothers are supposed to socially distance themselves from their newborns? How practical is it for them to follow the health recommendations being provided?
I worry about our health system and the health care workers globally who are already overwhelmed. When I heard our nurses were on a go-slow because of the fear of exposure in our public health facilities, my heart went out to them.
Imagine how it must feel for those mothers who can’t even begin to think of what online studying or working from home looks like. Neither do they know the luxury of having an emergency fund kit to stock up on necessities. For these mothers, meals from school feeding programs are the healthiest options their children have. If this pandemic is not the wake up call for the world, I do not know what else will be. COVID19 is not just about health It is about health and wellbeing, adopting holistic solutions, and doing better for women and girls everywhere. As we think of delivering on the SDGs during the Decade of Action, we cannot afford to continue to continue business as usual!!
I have deep worries about my family. As a young woman and mother to a little girl who recently went back to school, I am working on getting my career positioned towards a positive trajectory. Similarly, I have bills that will probably not get paid as my household income gets affected by the pandemic. I cringe at the thought of all the young women I work with who have it worse than me. At this point, getting an alert that I just received some money is heavenly.
The one thing that shall keep us going and see us through victory against the pandemic is the fact that We Are Powerful as women and girls!! Now more than ever, we need to amplify our voices and remind the world that We are Equal, and We Matter. We need to hold each other’s hands and spread our sisterly magic as we have always done and stand ‘socially distant’ alongside each other in these uncertain times because We Are Powerful, We Are Equal.
Re-posting from ATHENA’s WhatWomenWant Blog Series.