“What is our understanding of a feminist just transition?”. This is the reflection Wangari Kinoti, global lead for women’s rights and feminist alternatives at ActionAid, proposed at the start of a round table discussion moderated by her on 7 July during the 31st International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) Annual Conference, in Cape Town (South Africa). The urgency for an environmentally sustainable economic system is greatly and frequently talked about in economic forums, but what is the feminist perspective on the matter?
Kinoti invited four feminist advocates with different backgrounds and expertise to answer the question connecting it to their current work and activism. Âurea Mouzinho, policy advocacy and campaigns coordinator at GATJ, was among the speakers and underlined that a critical question for the feminist just transition is content with the idea of transitional justice to understand the inequalities that might permeate the process as much as the current context from which we are seeking to depart .
“Who’s carrying the burden of the transition and what are we doing to ensure that, wherever we want to get to, is not at the expense of a decent life for people today and the fight against the injustices that currently exist in the world? The feminist question is predicated on rejecting models that continue to preface the idea of a green world over a more just world for everyone”, Mouzinho said.
She explained how tax justice is a powerful tool that should be used for building not only a green and sustainable economy, but also socially responsible. “Wealth taxes, excess profit taxes, taxes on big polluters and inheritance taxes are all tools that can enable us to start addressing questions of redistribution now.”
Jessica Mandanda, member of and communications advisor at Feminist Macroeconomics Alliance Malawi, shared a practical example to preface what a feminist just transition means to her. She recalled the women’s strike in Iceland in 1975, when all women in the country took a day off, refusing to perform any sort of work, including care work. As Mandanda told, the consequences of one single day without women doing their usual work were felt in every aspect of life, even in activities that, to this day, are still considered predominantly male.
“On the surface it looks like that wasn’t much action, but on that day, schools were closed, because most of the teachers were women; daycares were closed, because caregivers were women; and because women had left the children at home, men had to figure out what to do with them. They couldn’t cook, so some of the shops ran out of fast foods and the easiest thing to cook like eggs and sausages. Flights were cancelled, because flight attendants were women. What I love about this is that, in Malawian society, education is ultimately seen as the men’s domain, men and boys should get educated and not girls. But when women decided not to go to work, on that day, men and boys were not educated. Men also couldn’t go to work, because they had no one to look after their children,” she pointed out.
“A just transition for me is the radical acknowledgement that you cannot live for 24 hours without a woman in your life. You cannot survive without a woman doing all the work that you refuse to acknowledge is work,” Mandanda explained.
Economist at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Ira Postolachi also focused on the importance of recognising women’s work, more specifically on care, for a just transition to be possible. She shared that, during ILO’s latest international conference, which happened about a month before the IAFFE’s conference, one of the resolutions approved was concerning a just transition towards an environmentally sustainable economy and society.
“This resolution says that a just transition should entail a strong gender inclusive dimension to address the many environmental challenges we are facing. It also encourages States to provide universal access to social protection systems and it also calls for investing in sustainable structures and quality public services. So a just transition cannot be possible if the importance of care is not recognised,” Postolachi said.
Lucía Cavallero, representative of the Ni Una Menos movement and debt and gender researcher at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, highlighted the importance of the feminist movement to create concepts from their political action, being the concept of a “just transition” one of them.
“Nowadays, to talk about the many crises we’re going through in Latin America, the vocabulary being used in many countries is feminist, the concepts came from feminist movements. A just transition, for me, is a work of connecting struggles. We need to achieve transversality in the feminist movement for the recognition of work, for more public care services, and for the struggle against extractivism,” she said.