Kinsey Powell is a good friend of the7dayringproject. Kinsey is a Commercial Banker with a specialization in Not For Profit Organizations, and women’s rights activist in Toronto, Canada. The following post are her thoughts:
On March 8th, 2017, many women will refuse to go to work.
They will refuse to clean their family homes or cook for their spouses. They won’t drive their children to school. They will not purchase or sell goods and services. It will be like they don’t exist. It will be a day without women.
A Day without a Woman is an extension of the Women’s March that swept the globe on January 21st, 2017. Its goal is to show just how important of a role women play in the functioning of our society and our economy. As 40% of the workforce, the primary caregivers in the majority of homes, and the top purchasers of discretionary consumer goods, women around the world hope that ‘going on strike’ will reveal just how important of a role they play. They are hoping it will be another piece of evidence supporting the need for policies and laws that respect women’s rights… especially because women are impacted the most by public policy decisions in gendered economies.
Global markets as a whole are still gendered economies. In North America, a woman’s quality of work is valued between 20-40% less than her male counterpart’s, depending on her industry, region, and physical appearance. Traditionally, “women’s work” in the home is not included in the measurement of the productivity of many economically powerful countries, via GDP, despite the fact that it enhances the earning capabilities of their spouses, families, and children. This is obviously problematic for many reasons: respect, inequality, economic agency, and miscalculated national productivity, to name a few. However, a less-discussed consequence when talking about gendered economies is how it disproportionately leaves women more susceptible to the negative impacts of public policy decisions.
When we discuss public policy impacting women, we often talk about more transparently gendered policies—such as limiting reproductive rights or lack of responsiveness to instances of domestic assault. Now, these are very important conversations to continue. However, as was so astutely and powerfully highlighted by the intersectional activism around the Women’s March, in gendered economies, public policies that we wouldn’t conventionally associate with women’s rights are impacting women on a more profound level than their male counterparts. Affordable healthcare. Access to public education. Heck, even public works.
Because in gendered economies, when resources are expensive, prohibitive, or scarce, women are rarely the first to receive them. If your potential earning power is less, your priority in receiving resources is lower.
Although this is a relatively new conversation in popular North American discourse, it has been one that NGOs and community activists have been having for decades.
When I was 17, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for the first time. While exploring the Maasai Mara, I spent time in a community that was receiving aid from a North American NGO. A lot of the NGO’s efforts were focused on empowering the children in the community, which often meant empowering their mothers. As someone with an interest in social and economic development, I followed the community leaders and NGO workers around with a long list of questions.
One afternoon, I sat in a local clinic chatting with a Kenyan health practitioner. When I asked him about the challenges of his role in reaching the women of his community, he explained that when healthcare is prohibitively expensive, families tend to save their funds to spend on the men in their home. Fathers and sons have greater earning potential and, therefore, hold greater value in the family. For this reason, a lot of women never see a doctor—which causes the obvious physical suffering or death due to illness—but also limits their knowledge of the needs of the human body and what symptoms indicate that they or their children need to go to the doctor.
Later that day, a local educator echoed the health practitioner’s sentiments. She said when free public education is unavailable, families tend to pool their money to send their eldest son to school, not their eldest daughter. If they can only send one child, they will send the one with the highest earning potential.
She added a discussion of public works. When water is far, waste disposal isn’t readily available, and the local government doesn’t maintain community infrastructure, women are tasked with the responsibility. While mothers and daughters are walking to retrieve water, finding places to dump waste, and repairing community roads or wells for no compensation, fathers and sons are receiving education or going to work—again, to maximize the earning potential of the family.
Although the impact of a gendered economy is greater felt in the Maasai Mara than it may be in many parts of North America, we are not exempt from its effect on the vulnerability of women at the hands of public policy makers. For example, as the Canadian population ages, the government will need to introduce adequate care for its senior citizens. We are already starting to see, in our gendered economy, working-age women having to limit their engagement with their careers to care for aging parents, more than their male equals. Additionally, we shouldn’t assume that our progress or protections are absolute. As we have seen recently with President Donald Trump’s Executive Orders and Cabinet choices in the United States, public education is not sacred, safe and effective public works is not a given for all citizens, and affordable healthcare is not a universal right of the 21st century.
The Women’s March reminded us that affordable healthcare is a women’s rights issue. Universal public education is a women’s rights issue. Access to safe drinking water and stable infrastructure is a women’s rights issue. It reminded us that, particularly in a gendered economy, women are impacted by public policy decisions to a greater extent.
If we are the ones being impacted to the greatest extent by public policy decision, women need a prominent voice in that decision-making.
Oh, the Women’s March also reminded us of one more thing:
If we aren’t offered a prominent voice, we will demand it.
the7dayringproject stands with women and believes that empowerment begins with education and unity. Learn more here.
Commercial Banker + Women’s rights activist