Putting Care at the Centre of Human Life

COVER WIDE CONF REP 09 (3)Care and care work must be understood – not as prerequisites to economic growth – but as the center of human life. This understanding can bring about a political and economic shift in priorities from moneymaking and consumption, to creating new ways of being and living that are more dignifying and ethical.

A new publication from WIDE, the Annual Conference report, entitled WE CARE! Feminist responses to the care crises, explains how the interlocking global crises impact women’s cultural, economic and social rights. It discusses in detail how women’s role as caregivers is affected by the current global economic policies, and it outlines proposals, best practices and suggestions to create a world that is based on alternative concepts of work, livelihoods and well-being in relation to care work.

What is ‘care’ anyway? To successfully address the care crises requires questioning and changing existing definitions of care which identify women as natural carers. The ways of perceiving and treating ‘care work’ within mainstream economics and political spaces must also be challenged. WE CARE! Feminist responses to the care crises opposes the conventional understanding of care as something ’external’ to economic and market systems – something of limited or no value – and proposes overlooking the artificial separation between productive and reproductive economies.

The report recommends considering the interconnections between the financial, economic and care crises. “We need a care lens to look at the process of capital accumulation and what happens in the process of development, rather than assuming a priori that development/growth will lead to an improvement in care-giving and human welfare,” says Shahra Razavi from UNRISD, Switzerland, a speaker at the WIDE conference.

The report states that the current period of crisis should be taken as an opportunity to shape a feminist vision of an alternative economy (a ‘caring economy’) that transforms care roles and definitions and propagates a vision of transformation of the dominant neoliberal, profit-driven economic paradigm.

According to Stephanie Seguino (Department of Economics, University of Vermont), “This is (…) a transformative moment in history, providing a window of opportunity to challenge the restrictions on growth and development enforced by developed countries and the international financial institutions. It is an opportune moment to reconsider the view that developing countries should rely heavily on exports as a stimulus to growth.”

The report gives an overview of all plenary presentations and discussions held at WIDE’s 2009 Annual Conference, entitled ‘WE CARE! Feminist responses to the care crises’ hosted by WIDE Switzerland (18–20 June 2009). The conference gathered around 180 participants from all over the world, who jointly reflected on the political and policy urgency of re-examining the care economy and care ethics driving our institutions, policies and society as a whole, and on the need to envision alternative concepts of work, livelihoods and well-being in relation to care and care work.

Please download the report from here WIDE CONF REPORT 09

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