Yet, right now, we find ourselves facing the twin challenges of Covid recovery and the climate crisis.
As well as claiming far too many lives, the Covid-19 crisis has compounded existing inequalities across the world. Scotland is no exception: even before the pandemic our economy was hardwired to marginalize women, who were more likely to live in poverty at any point in their lives, more likely to be in precarious work and much more likely to undertake underpaid and unpaid care work . But Covid-19 has dealt a massive blow to our ambitions for a more equal society. Today is the day to redouble efforts to tackle inequality and transform our society.
This year, the UN theme for International Women’s Day recognizes the contribution of women and girls to tackling the climate crisis – ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. Today is about hope, and about recognizing that in taking on these challenges we can also fight back against existing inequalities.
But we must be cautious: alive to the risk that the transition to a low carbon economy could further entrench gender inequalities.
If that’s to be avoided, Scotland’s transition must be about so much more than reform of our energy sector: instead it should herald a systemic and societal transformation. Decarbonisation can offer an opportunity to tackle the diverse inequities in Scottish society.
The Scottish Government must take radical action to build an economy that is fit for the future: creating a gender transformative, caring economy that values, rewards and invests in care. Crucially this must include concerted action to tackle the poverty facing the nation’s carers, whether paid or unpaid; the majority of whom are women.
Such steps would demonstrate that a caring economy is also an environmentally friendly economy: jobs in care are green jobs.
But such a transformation can only be achieved through a change in mindset: of politicians, both national and local, and the civil servants who support them. Policy making must be guided by feminist principles and analysis: a basic starting point would be to ask the question: how will this impact women and men or girls and boys differently? Will particular groups of women be negatively impacted by this policy choice?
And of course, if politicians are going to do more than simply pay lip service to tackling gender inequalities than we need our systems and structures to hold them to account.
That’s why the Scottish Women’s Budget Group has joined forces with Oxfam Scotland, One Parent Family Scotland, Scottish Care and the National Carer Organisations, including Carers Scotland, to call for a new National Outcome on care to be added to Scotland’s National Performance Framework. We must measure what we value and, right now, nobody’s measuring care.
This International Women’s Day it is time to recognize and value the role that care, and those who provide it plays as we together build a gender equal economy in Scotland that can respond to the climate crisis.
Sara Cowan, Coordinator, Scottish Women’s Budget Group