Resolution urges gender equality in COVID-19 recovery programs

  • KIERKIEWICZ

The Hawaii County Council was very supportive Wednesday of a resolution urging the county administration to consider gender differences when crafting COVID-19 recovery programs.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who co-introduced the resolution, said it was “the most important resolution of my career” and “represents the struggles of the working mom.”

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Citing research by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Kierkiewicz said the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affect women more than men, despite women making up roughly 50% of the state’s workforce.

For example, she said, women make up 73% of employees in the health care and social assistance sector — what Kierkiewicz called the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 — while also accounting for 57% of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance in Hawaii County.

Furthermore, with schools closed, Kierkiewicz said more women than men are left caring for children: 44% of women reported being the sole care provider for their children compared with 14% of men.

Because of this discrepancy, Kierkiewicz said the county should take care to consider the perspectives of women when creating pandemic aid policies.

“It’s about how we go about engaging the end users of our programs,” Kierkiewicz explained, adding that, because a majority of the beneficiaries of many current and future programs are women, the county should consider strengthening its partnerships with women’s groups in order to put information about those programs in the hands of as many women as possible.

Kierkiewicz’s fellow council members applauded the resolution, with Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy saying it could be instrumental in crafting public policy even beyond the pandemic.

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The measure passed unanimously.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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