Solidarity in the times of Corona virus

Staša Zajović

I Introduction – the context and forms of intervention of Women in Black

Pandemic of virus Covid-19 has been one of the most overwhelming natural catastrophes of our times. The pandemic permeates all dimensions of life: health, politics, social, economic, gender, security; the pandemic has shaken the whole humanity, with inestimable consequences and challanges.
State of emergency was declared in Serbia on March 15, 2020 and it was done unconstitutionally, without say of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia. During the state of emergency, as well after, when it was canceled on May 6, the Covid-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse for massive violation of human rights, illegal detentions, suppression of independent media, political persecutions, increased militarization of the state and the society in Serbia.

Activities during the state of emergency

Since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic we established various modes of mutual support and solidarity within Women in Black Network: daily telephone contacts with activists, not only in Serbia but in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia as well; communication through social networks/Facebook, visiting activists in Belgrade, especially women over 65 and providing them with basic supplies; humanitarian aid to the most socially deprived activists, modest aid according to our capabilities and giving psychological support to activists by the therapeutic team of Women‘s Court which operates in the whole region. Also, since the eruption of Covid pandemic we were in permanent contact with activists of International WiB Network, mostly from Italy, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain, also Turkey, Latin America, U.S.A etc. The communication gave us an insight into different dimensions and consequences of the pandemic – political, social-class, gender, militaristic etc.

Activities after the state of emergency

According to WiB‘s ethics of care and responsibility and our practice of ‚direct intervention in the context‘, especially in situations of big shakes and crisis, we consider as exceptionally important the field work and direct live contacts with activists. In that sense we organized visits/encounters/exchange with our activists. We are not going to discuss here other activities within WiB Network (street actions, numerous activities within the extensive program of transitional justice from feminist perspective etc.), but we will present the findings from our encounters with the activists.

II Collective pondering on the different aspects of the pandemic: we organized ’mini’ feminist discussion circles with participation of the core activists of WiB network, and with the activists from the area of Zvornik and Tuzla (Bosnia i Herzegovina) too.

In the period from May 10 to mid-July we visited eleven (11) places in Serbia (Novi Sad, Subotica, Petrovaradin, Leskovac, Vlasotince, Kruševac, Kikinda, Pančevo, Lučani twice, Kraljevo). In Belgrade we organized in WiB premises four rounds of discussions (May 13, 20, 27 and June 17). In the meeting 'The spectre of Corona is haunting the world' June 12/14 in Radmilovac near Belgrade 32 persons participated from some ten towns in Serbia, as we already reported in details, but since most of them previously took part in our visits, a special discussion was organized with activists who were not part of feminist discussion circles (Zrenjanin, Zaječar and Priboj on Lim). Also, within educational program 'Women‘s Peace Activism' (June 25 and 26) in Đulici we discussed consequences of the pandemic with participation of 21 women from some ten places in the area of Tuzla and Zvornik in BiH.

In 'mini' feminist discussion circles sixty female and five male activists participated, total of 65 and 32 participants in Radmilovac to be added. So, around hundred (100) persons were involved in discussions on pandemic and its consequences. Although it is a limited number, we think that the positions of the persons with whom we held the discussions reflect perceptions, thinking and feelings of a far wider circle of people. Namely, because of health/epidemiology reasons we did not invite larger circles but decided to invite the core of WiB Network only.

Concerning methodology, we prepared a short guide for the discussions in order to enable easier comparisions of similarities and differences as well (centar-periphery; village-town; social status, employed-unemployed, etc.)

You can read the whole debate in pdf.

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