Inequality Virus

Oxfam International
4 min readJan 29, 2021

By Mwanahamisi Singano — Head of Programmes, FEMNET

Katie G. Nelson/Oxfam

When I read Oxfam’s report The Inequality Virus, I felt anguish and anger, but also, I had that urge to scream from the top of my voice, telling the world, and the world leaders, “We told you” I mean, over and over again, activists, feminists and academics have said, we need to end inequality, the current, capitalist model backed by neoliberal policies is making the world a bad place for human survival and environment sustainability, but they never listen. Oxfam’s report, confirms, everything we have been saying, preaching and campaigned for was and continues to be right.

The capitalist economy is oppressive, exploitative, patriarchal, colonialist, racist, sexist — the list of evils associated with this economic model is endless. These characteristics manifested during the pandemic, we have all seen: most impacted, are the women, people of color, the poorest the marginalized communities. In Africa like in many parts of the world COVID-19 is not just a health emergency, it was and continues to be social, economic, and political emergency of our own making. The Pandemic just laid bare the structural inequalities and dysfunctional social and political systems crafted to serve endless wealth accumulation of a powerful few (men) while leaving billions of people in poverty and hopelessness.

African women, girls and the people living in poverty are struggling for survival

It is during this pandemic when the number of teenage pregnancies skyrocketed in Kenya among poor households where girls were left unsupported or forced to sell sex for a bucket of water for a shower or for sanitary pads. In Namibia young girls activists are demanding to shut down everything during the pandemic (#ShutItAllDown) to demand the end of violence and femicides, as streets, workplaces, the public is not safe, because in a capitalist world, women bodies are properties — to be used and abused. Governments’ policy priorities are often focusing on enhancing private investment by offering the most lucrative tax breaks to private sector, but not on investing in the safety of women and girls or on public services. In Nigeria young people flooded the streets and put their lives on the line to demand their “social rights” by calling for the end of police brutality. Across Africa women traders and informal workers lost their jobs, their livelihood, and little assets they had to survive the pandemic.

What ironic it is, while African women, girls and the people living in poverty are struggling for their survival, the rich (men) are getting richer, right there in front of us, during the pandemic! I wonder, where are those who kept saying, the billionaires have trickledown effect? Can they claim that augment now? Just in case they did, I recommend reading this report because once again that fallacy has been debunked. The pyramid of power and exploitation is what makes this economic model particularly inhuman — the majority are exploited to serve the greedy few. In fact, the level of exploitation and appropriation we have seen during this pandemic, equals the plundering and looting of 19th century. The lives lost and unbearable pains of women and girls surviving this pandemic are on the shoulders of these billionaire.

People from communities have to work extra hard

We, as people from our communities, we had to work extra hard, sharing our last penny to be able to deliver food baskets or sanitary kits to people in need, because governments are not providing needed services to the poor, and the billionaires are busy finding avenue to enrich themselves even more. Some of them even benefited from governments bailout packages in expenses of small business run by women and youth, just because they have power to access and accumulate public resources as well. There is no better time to abolish billionaires than now.

The fact that it will take 14 times longer for people living in poverty to recover to the pre- COVID-19 level, which to be clear was no way equal or dignified, accentuates: we now need clear and bold commitments to end capitalism. Since March 2020 when the pandemic erupted, we have heard all sorts of rhetoric condemning inequalities, because the reality was/is too ugly to confront. However, we know, if anything, this report has shown us, lip service, good intentions, recognition, and policy fixes won’t end the inequality virus. We need an equal and round economic model as opposed to a pyramid model, where everyone lives a decent and dignified life. The recognition of essential workers, most of them are women, people of color and people living in poverty should not just end with claps and social media memes, it should translate to decent living wages, social protection cover, health insurance among other essential services. This is a call on us to lockdown capitalism, to vaccinate against greed and do some social distancing from billionaires.

This blog is a contribution to debate around Davos, views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Oxfam International’s position.

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Oxfam International

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.