Hawaii Introduces COVID-19 ‘Feminist Economic Recovery Plan’

The Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women has introduced a ‘feminist economic recovery plan’ that is designed to help women recover from the economic hardships created by the coronavirus pandemic. The plan is the first of its kind in the nation.

The plan, called “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19,” centers women from the most marginalized groups that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The plan not only proposes measures that will help aid in recovery from the economic fallout of the virus, but also introduces fundamental changes to the way women’s work is valued and compensated.

“I have not seen any state or nation propose a feminist economic recovery, a recovery that explicitly centers women or attempts to counteract patriarchy,” said Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the commission. “Even proposals from left movements in the U.S. are missing this. They are bold on race and class, but gender is taken for granted. People don’t seem to understand the fundamental role of patriarchy, and how to tie gender in with race and class. So, I turned to the people with real power — women organizing in our communities who are active inside and outside government.”

The plan recommends that the formulation of the response and subsequent recovery must include “input from the impacted, essential sectors that employ a majority of women and organizations that serve women, girls and people who identify as women, femme and nonbinary.”

The plan calls for a restructuring of Hawaii’s economy, moving away a heavy reliance on military, tourism, and luxury development “by identifying opportunities for Hawaiʻi to support and benefit from sustainable PPE manufacturing, design or other opportunities and ensuring women have access to “green jobs” in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and environmental management and construction jobs (89.9% male workers) through stimulus programs that promote gender and racial equity.”

Strengthening education, childcare, and healthcare programs is also proposed as research shows that this “boosts employment, earnings, economic growth and fosters gender equality.”

To address and eradicate gendered economic inequalities the plan implores the state to “Raise the minimum wage to a living wage ($24.80/hour for single mothers), adopt universal basic income, universal single payer health care, paid sick days and paid family leave, restructure the regressive tax system through increased property taxes and corporate taxes once the recession ends, develop innovative programs to address houselessness, and center food system workers and farmworkers, not just larger-scale farmers, in agricultural and food self-sufficiency programs, widening access for low-income consumers.”

The plan also calls for the inclusion of midwifery to strengthen Hawaii’s maternal and neo-natal care resources, as well as measures that will “incorporate gender-based violence prevention in the immediate response and long-term recovery.”

Khara Joabola-Carolus is optimistic about other states being able to recreate something similar to Hawaii’s plan. “We have the tools now — like Google Docs and Zoom — that enable a democratic process in real time, but we need to create onramps for women with disabilities. Build your feminist army and go beyond advocates and legislators,” she concluded. “Involve women who are connected to and well-versed in the struggles of women living on the edge in your community. Look for women economists and economists critical of neoliberalism. Most of all, think big picture and be aspirational.”

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