LIHU‘E — The economic hardship of the novel coronavirus has disproportionately affected women in terms of profession, childcare and household responsibilities, a Kaua‘i County Council resolution states.
On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council joined Maui and Hawai‘i Island councils in passing a resolution supporting a “feminist economy recovery plan” and urging the equity, inclusion and social and economic justice principles be implemented in recovery initiatives.
The council, through the resolution, urged the county to “view this pandemic through a gendered lens and incorporate principles of equity, inclusion and social and economic justice” through county-run COVID-19 programs and language.
In April, the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women issued a plan, “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs,” deemed the nation’s first feminist economic recovery plan for the pandemic. The state is the first and only in the country to pass legislation committed to ending discrimination against women.
The 23-page plan calls to promote reform in the areas of economic support, caregiving, health-care programs, release programs, housing and shelter as well as diversifying the economy.
The plan includes ideas like expanding wages for family/informal caregivers, special funds for high-risk groups like those affected by sex trafficking, women with disabilities and immigrants.
Women make up about 73% of those working in health care and social assistance and 68% in education, according to a 2016 state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism study cited in the council’s resolution.
Khara Jabola-Carolus spoke to the council Wednesday via Zoom from her home.
“If you hear children in the background it’s because I’m right there with women in the state in this struggle through the pandemic and childcare,” Jabola-Carolus said. “Everyone has been impacted by COVID-19. However, there’s been a really serious toll on the status of women in Hawai‘i.”
Nine months into the pandemic, hardships continue.
“We’re just seeing how great this toll has been, and we know that the extent of the damage to women in particular as a group is really dependent on how government can understand what they’re going through,” Jabola-Carolus said.
Edie Ignacio Neumiller, a member of the Kaua‘i County Commission on the Status of Women and a commissioner on the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women, pointed to upticks in domestic violence during the pandemic.
In March 2020, the county reported 23 cases, whereas in 2019, there were 19 cases. In July 2020, the county reported 36 cases. Last year, it was 24, Ignacio Neumiller noted.
“The County of Kaua‘i needs a robust recovery initiative to be inclusive for women, including job-stimulus funding in unemployment benefits, prevention of sex trafficking of women, child abuse and to provide social-services support for women during these stressful times from the pandemic,” Ignacio Neumiller said.
The resolution, passed unanimously Wednesday, was introduced by Councilmember Felicia Cowden and Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro.
“This resolution is in alignment with the pro-active funding and policies that the County of Kaua‘i has made, recognizing the disproportionate burden placed on women throughout the COVID-19 timeframe,” Cowden said in a statement.
“Women carry a heavier share of the elder-care, childcare and endurance of violence in this time of social distancing, remote education and work. We stand with municipalities around the world emphasizing the need for economic fairness to women,” said Cowden.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.