On April 23, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women published an economic recovery plan that highlighted the needs of women, girls and people with other marginalized gender identities. This was the first plan drafted by an official U.S. state agency to explicitly articulate a feminist vision for a post COVID-19 recovery. Behind the plan is a group of dedicated local advocates who meet weekly to discuss the ways the crisis is impacting women in their multiple roles as caregivers, workers and citizens.
There has been a wave of interest in the plan from national press, international networks and other states wishing to replicate it. Hawaii’s U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono hosted a town hall on women’s issues related to the plan. It is being taught in University of Hawaii classes, informing the work of other state agencies, and shaping conversations in national health networks.
In spite of this interest, the plan, endorsed by many respected community advocates, has hardly generated a ripple in the local news, save for two articles in Maui News and Maui Time. This relative media silence speaks to the wider challenges highlighted in the plan, as women struggle to make their voices heard within COVID-19 response and recovery planning.
Women, especially women of color, are bending over backwards in the COVID-19 crisis, but without support. Women represent the majority of workers on the front lines while struggling to balance paid work (if they still have it) alongside caregiving responsibilities in a state with the least affordable child care. Women are not only facing increased risk of violence during this time, but cuts to vital social services and an increasingly uncertain future.
Our plan outlines actions the state can take to respond to the current crisis — while working to transform, enhance and stimulate Hawaii’s economy — by:
>> Preventing gender- based violence.
>> Harnessing the role of midwifery.
>> Growing the economy by building the state’s social infrastructure (childcare, education and health care).
>> Redressing critical economic inequalities by adopting a living wage, among other efforts.
>> Reorienting our economies away from the military, tourism and luxury development, toward land- and sea-based practices that restore Hawaii’s ecological and food system. Doing so will require correctly utilizing stimulus funds aligned with Public Land Trust Revenue State obligations, including by ensuring that 20% of all funds are channeled to the recovery needs of Native Hawaiians.
We think of our plan as a bridge — a way forward. But we cannot build a bridge on a faulty foundation. The concrete policies we have outlined to redistribute unpaid care work, create decent work with living wages and redress wealth inequalities can help to lay the foundation for a more socially and ecologically just economy.
There are no ready-made bridges that will take us where we need to go in this changed landscape; we must build them together as we move forward. The bridges we must build are those to our own power and to do this, there is not one path, but many.
Amanda Shaw, teaches about feminist economic alternatives; Sharon Kaiulani Odom, is a cultural practitioner who works in indigenous and women’s health; Jane Chung-Do is an associate professor with the University of Hawaii-Manoa Office of Public Health Studies. This was submitted on behalf of the Hawai‘i Feminist COVID-19 Response Group.