Statement by the department on the Women's strike

(05-03-2020)

The Department of Conflict and Development Studies at Ghent University supports the UGent Women’s Strike, as part of the general Belgian and international feminist call for a women’s strike of paid and unpaid care work, under the slogan ‘when we stop, the world stops’.
The international women’s strike calls into question the structural devaluation of care work, both in its unpaid form at home and in its underpaid form at work. This life sustaining work of keeping people alive, healthy and satisfied is still mostly performed by women, often women of colour.
At our own university, work is structured by a similar sexual and racialised division of labour in which women and people of colour are underrepresented in senior positions, yet overrepresented in cleaning, cafeteria and childcare services. This care work is often badly paid, rendered invisible and performed in difficult and precarious conditions.  
This is why this year’s UGent Women’s Strike is putting the stories, lives and demands of the care workers centre stage and making their work more visible. On 9 March we support the UGent Women’s Strike demand for a re-valuation and redistribution of care work, centred around 3 key demands: the insourcing of the cleaning staff, the statutarisation of the cafeteria and day-care personnel, and a minimum wage of 14 euro for all UGent staff.
The Department of Conflict and Development Studies was the bedrock where the UGent Women’s Strike was first conceived in 2017 by a group of women on staff, with the support of male colleagues. Together they have protested against gender discrimination and harassment on campus, against the gender pay gap and the underrepresentation of women and people of colour in senior positions and against the staggering workload and publication pressure which is making it impossible to sustain a healthy work-life balance, especially for colleagues with young children.
As a department studying contemporary processes of globalisation and uneven economic development, we are well aware of detrimental impact of gendered and racialised divisions of labour, and of the accompanying feminisation and precarisation of labour and migration on a global scale. Seeing how these unequal divisions of labour are also at play at our university, we support the UGent Women’s Strike and are in full solidarity with our colleagues on strike, because when they stop, the university stops.