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UNRISD Research Coordinator Delivers Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture in Johannesburg

20 Oct 2010



UNRISD Research Coordinator Shahra Razavi delivered the 2010 Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa on 14 September.

Entitled “Worlds Apart: Rethinking Care in a Development Context”, the lecture focused on country-specific research in Argentina, India, Nicaragua, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and Tanzania.

According to Razavi, “Care is central to the struggle for equality and social justice. Care is fundamental for gender justice. And it is an issue that needs to be addressed head-on if we are serious about addressing the grotesque levels of inequality that exist both between different countries and within our societies”.

Razavi goes on to say that national economies depend on the economic and social conditions that facilitate care-giving, as a healthy and skilled work force capable of learning and creativity is at the heart of economic growth. In other words, social development and economic growth correlate with the giving and receiving of care, which explains its important role in poverty eradication, as argued in the 2010 UNRISD Flagship Report, Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics.

“Among the poor, care has to be foregone as family carers seek irregular and unprotected paid work,” Razavi said in her speech. “In other words, those who have economic advantages in other realms are able to purchase more and better care; as a result, the economic inequalities spill over into care inequalities, creating what professor Joan Tronto calls ‘vicious circles of inequality’”.

Policy makers must lead the shift from a strategy that relies on market and ‘voluntary’ provision of care that is of the most informal and exploitative kind, to one that nurtures professional, decently paid and compassionate forms of care, Razavi argued. This requires effective regulation and monitoring by states.

Razavi concluded with, “All care-receivers should have universal and affordable access to care, as well as choice and control over how any help or assistance necessary to facilitate their independence is provided. Unpaid care-givers would be able to care in ways that strengthen the well-being and capabilities of the ones they care for without jeopardizing their own economic security. And care-giving would become a real option, with adequate recognition and reward”.

Academics, researchers and students, as well as some policy actors and public figures, including Mrs. Zanela Mbeki, the ex-first lady of South Africa, attended the lecture.

Razavi’s address was featured on South Africa’s “Morning Live” news program, broadcasted on the SABC 2 television channel.