Putting Life at the Center – We have to transform the “system” in order to respect Women`s Work

The Covid-19 pandemic had not only tremendous impacts on the ways we live, work and interact as a society, but also generated new discourses. We are practicing “social distancing” to “flatten the curve”.

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One of those discourses is representative for an important incoherence in our reflection around the pandemic: the “systemic relevance of frontline workers”. Frontline workers, these are the nurses, the teachers, the people working to deliver our online shopping, the cleaners, and the cashiers at the local supermarket. In short, the people that keep the system running, while our normality is breaking away in the pandemic. These people are in their great majority working-class women.

While public infrastructure (health, education, social security systems) suffered in many parts of the world under the neoliberal wave of austerity policies in the last decades, those frontline workers are now the last resort in the pandemic to make “the system” work. But even if their contribution is praised in political soap box speeches, this did not lead to valuing the contribution and the role of care work in our societies. It also didn`t lead to decent salaries and dignified working and living conditions of “frontline workers”.

In the context of the project “The future is feminist”, we engaged as FES Mozambique over the last two years with feminist academics and activist from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East on conditions of decent work and a dignified future for workers. The film “Putting Life at the Center is a product of these debates and asks a fundamental question: Why do we keep a failing system running instead of transforming it in a way that puts life, nature and people back into the centre?

The narrative of the film has been constructed based on the lived experiences of the group and sends a clear message: It won`t be enough to remedy the “system” and ask for a little pay raise for the frontline workers in the light of a crisis. We need to transform the underlying conditions of the crisis to recover women`s (and human) dignity and to collectively develop more sustainable and liveable futures.




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