On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Now more than 40 African countries are battling the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since the outbreak began a few months ago in China, we have collectively been forced to redefine vital aspects of our lives. Companies are transitioning to remote work. Much of our society is finally beginning to see the value of grocery store employees and other underpaid workers. And all of us are struggling to adjust to having our social lives disrupted by the need for physical distancing. So how do we show up for ourselves and for each other in times like these? What does self-care look like during a pandemic?
Audre Lorde wrote “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is even more vital in tough times. We have to manage the pressure to be productive even as the world as we know it changes so monumentally around us. Taking time just to breathe feels like an act of defiance, and maybe it is. But it is also necessary. Engaging in little activities to ease our collective anxiety is self-care.
Self-care is also community-based. It’s about uplifting each other. It is more important than ever now that we create virtual communities. So many of us, introverts and extroverts alike, are struggling to cope with the physical isolation needed to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections. We are also learning just how much many of our relationships depend on being able to see each other in person. We now have to be even more intentional about reaching out to each other and checking in. More than ever, we have to depend on each other.
Already on social media, people are reaching out in more creative ways. From Instagram Live concerts to Zoom meetings with strangers, we are redefining community. As medical personnel deal with shortages of protection gear, individuals are coming together to make and donate more.
Offline too, connections are being made. In many places, neighbours are finally getting to know each other. People are leaving supplies at the doorsteps of elderly and immunocompromised neighbours. Free pantries have been created in many areas and people are sending care packages to friends and strangers. We are learning that even without being able to interact directly, we can show up for each other.
We are also learning some hard lessons. Numerous corporations are exhibiting their deep lack of compassion and prioritizing profits over employees. As many of us transition to work from home, there are many more people who have no choice but to keep risking their health by commuting to work. Many others are now unemployed with no way to pay their bills. People working in the informal sector and freelance workers are struggling to make ends meet even more than before.
The ease with which certain organizations have transitioned to remote work has also brought to the forefront something people living with disabilities have always known. Accommodating their needs has always been possible. It just wasn’t deemed necessary until it became something the majority needed.
Part of showing up for our community means making sure that these issues no longer get pushed to the back burner. As feminists, we must leverage what privilege we do have to demand better for those around us. This pandemic has highlighted how unsustainable our capitalist system is and shown us who the status quo works for. And so while celebrities gather virtually to sing about imagining a better world, the rest of us will put in the work to dismantle oppressive systems. We will demand accountability and compassion from our leaders because it is what we deserve.