Tuesday, 17 March 2020 marks International Social Work amidst the global crisis on the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China has infected and affected tens of thousands of people whilst claiming the lives of many across the globe. As South Africa joins several other countries in a national shutdown as a form of preventative measures, this presents an opportunity for reflections, particularly those in power.
Coronavirus is a rude awakening for the world as it affirms the interdependency we have on each other on a local, national and global level. The awakening is quite befitting, given that the International Federation for Social Workers (IFSW) has declared this year’s theme as ‘Promoting The Importance Of Human Relationships’ which is the fourth and final theme of the 2010 to 2020 Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. The coincidental nature of the theme is that it forces us into a global conversation that seeks to interrogate the current socioeconomic and political structures. With a deliberate focus on how they operate as instruments to serve humankind through improved social policies and service delivery.
The outbreak is exposing how our governments have reduced (resource allocation and lack of political will) the importance of the wellbeing of the citizens that put that them in power. Public healthcare, access to information, access to water and sanitation, basic nutrition and housing have been the biggest concerns for countries affected by the outbreak, more so your developing countries such as South Africa.
As an aspiring feminist social worker, the perpetual decline of the state’s capacity to provide decent social welfare services to people in our country is worrisome. This is particularly disturbing given the reality that South Africa remains the most unequal society in the world; inequalities that are not natural but are historically constructed by politics and power. There is a need now more than ever for our country’s government to reconsider how they prioritize the wellbeing of the people they serve. As social workers we believe in the endless possibilities of accelerating social development through prioritizing the co-determining relationships between people, communities and nations in order to address social, economic, political and ecological challenges we face.
Therefore on International Social Work Day, I urge us not to undermine the significant and necessary role social workers play in advancing people, communities and nations to bring about sustainable and equitable change for all. As social workers we need to remain committed to the strengthening of the political dimension of our profession in order to build critical thinking and historical consciousness that will foster a culture of social development whilst promoting an inclusive and diverse society for all.
Keitumetse Fatimata Moutloatse is a Feminist Social Worker currently completing her Honors Degree in Social Work at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is the Founder and Chairperson of Black Womxn Caucus, a social movement that advocates against Gender Based Violence and its manifestations on a micro, meso and macro level. She has also been named the Change Maker Of The Year 2019/2020 by the University of the Witwatersrand.
These are views of the author and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Vox’s editorial policy.