As the Covid-19 crisis continues to shine light through the deep cracks of inequality and violence built into our neo-liberal, capitalist global structure, we must use an intersectional feminist approach in our analysis, organizing, and policy. Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy (IFFP) hosted a webinar this topic with Lina Abou Habib, Senior Policy Fellow at Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs and Strategic MENA Advisor – Global Fund for Women, from Beirut. Lina made one thing very clear throughout the talk: Covid-19 is not the ‘great equalizer’ as some are suggesting. Instead, we should be asking who is being most affected and which populations are most vulnerable to a global health crisis. On the opposite end, who is able to resist the shock?
She spoke on Lebanon specifically, a context where the pandemic rode in on the coat tails of a full-fledged revolution – one grounded in feminist demands. The moment is unprecedented. People are bankrupt and are being asked to stay home in poverty without any economic relief. Simultaneously, the regime is gaining control in a moment where people have been forced inside, unable to continue protesting and carrying the momentum of a months long revolution. We cannot allow the state (the ‘oligarchy/regime/men in suits’ as Lina referred to them) to legitimize its role as ‘protector’ while they ‘pilfer’ the coffer.’ While they falsely claim they are responding to demands of the revolution despite perpetuating a culture of nepotism and corruption.
Daily laborers face horrendous fines for breaking lockdown despite being unable to provide for themselves and their families otherwise and policies lack gendered dimensions. Women, domestic workers, and members of the queer community all face abuse at home. Domestic workers who basically already live under lockdown are now on call 24/7 and unable to escape abuse, all while being left out of response plans. Women are being denied visitation rights in child custody cases. Refugees are vulnerable – with the first positive case of Covid-19 being reported from a refugee camp in Lebanon this week. The lack of reliable internet makes education and organizing difficult from home. People are fearing for their lives, with no support from the regime they’ve been protesting for months.
Lina reminds us that the consequences of the pandemic will not end with the virus. We must track and advocate based on how people (especially those already on the periphery) will be positioned in the long-term after the short-term responses to Covid-19 run their course. The continuation of problematic politics in Lebanon especially has shown us why the revolution must continue. As Lina said when closing out the meeting, feminists across the globe are all talking about the same issues right now and what we need is a massive mobilization across feminist organizations. Across borders. Let us take this opportunity to reach out to one another and keep raising a feminist political consciousness.