The COVID–19 pandemic continues to devastate the lives and wellbeing of millions of people around the world; women and girls, people with disabilities, youth, older people, and sexual and gender minorities are most at risk of ‘being left behind’.
Pacific Island countries already grappling with pervasive inequality, sustainable development challenges and climate change now must consider their response to the impacts of COVID–19.
While confirmed cases of COVID–19 are low in the Pacific compared with other regions, the threat of the virus remains and the wider social and economic impacts are already evident.
The pandemic is exposing fractures in weak healthcare systems and lack of essential services, decimating economies highly reliant on women’s labour participation such as tourism and hospitality, and fueling gender–based violence in a region where rates are already the highest in the world.
As Pacific Island governments and development partners undertake measures to design COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, policies and programs in an attempt to “build back better” (United Nations 2020), this paper envisions an inclusive and transformative feminist response to the crisis that places women, girls and vulnerable groups at the centre of these efforts.
This paper envisions an inclusive and transformative feminist response focused on four key outcomes: preserving access to healthcare and essential services; promoting women’s economic empowerment; protecting women and girls from gender–based violence; and supporting vulnerable and marginalised groups to express their voice and claim their rights amid the pandemic.