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Christian Aid’s priorities, including working with others towards achieving gender, economic and climate justice, are closely intertwined.

Theories about social contracts have been around for a long time, but have also often been criticised for excluding women and people who are marginalised. We believe that many deliberations are needed to rebuild a sense of what we owe each other and the planet. Any genuinely transformative social contract needs to be feminist and anti-racist, to shift power, address historic injustices and their present-day manifestations, and support reparations.

To shift the narrative on social contracts Christian Aid has commissioned 12 experts and activists to unpack what these feminist, anti-racist, eco-social contracts would look like.

Our aim is to understand how to transform relationships, not only between the citizen and the state, but also (particularly in fragile states) within communities, and between people and the planet. We wanted to consider what we owe each other and to future generations. How to build mutual accountability between peoples, states, business and nature and in doing so, how we can move from theory to practice. Read on to explore the essays. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Christian Aid. 

1. A feminist social contract and a rights-based economy: where are the intersections?

By Ohene Ampofo-Anti and Kate Donald, Center for Economic and Social Rights

This essay explores the idea of a feminist social contract through the human rights framework, asking what support international human rights law and principles provide for this goal and the journey towards it. It compares the vision of a 'feminist social contract' with calls for a 'Rights-Based Economy', and analyses the extent of alignment, the intersections and the potential points of tension.

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Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
The Rights-Based Economy and the feminist social contract: natural allies?
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A feminist social contract in the globalised world Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
Feminist social contract illustration

2. A feminist social contract in the globalized world

 By Roberto Bissio, Social Watch

Focused on Latin America this essay explores the gendered impacts of rising inequalities; how inequalities in the region effectively create a situation of segregation along lines of race or gender; and the ideological offensive and influence of conservative groups opposed to progressive gender policies and inclusive language. Despite the challenges, it explores the signs of hope as well as the many barriers to gender equality and other progressive change at the global level and provides some recommendations for a more enabling policy environment.

3. Ubuntu: A Framework for a New Feminist Contract for People and Planet

By Bob Kikuyu, Christian Aid

Ubuntu is derived from the relational way of being in many African societies. This essay discusses a new feminist social contract for people and the planet from the perspective of relationships and their value in building resilience, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and in facilitating consensus and inclusion in decision-making. It also explores Ubuntu from a feminist perspective that challenges patriarchy, and asks, how does this fit when Ubuntu itself may be a vestige of patriarchy?

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Ubuntu: A Framework for a New Feminist Contract for People and Planet Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
an illustration of women holding up the globe
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Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
The dream that can still be: The Chilean process to a new social contract

4. The dream that can still be

By Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona and Valentina Contreras Orrego, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

This essay focuses on the Chilean ‘awakening’ which has occurred since longstanding economic policies which have privileged an elite led to social unrest in 2019, the proposed new Constitution that would have responded to the calls of activists, and the subsequent backlash. With the Pinochet-era constitution still in place, it explores the complexities and power imbalances and how this relates to the global context.

5. Conflict, fragility and bottom-up approaches

By Helen Kezie-Nwoha

The essay interrogates the ‘social contract’ and redefines it for conflict contexts and fragile settings, evaluating the extent to which this concept can be applied in such settings using a feminist lens. It reflects on what marginalised communities can expect from states, particularly when they may have to cross borders due to conflict/crisis. It suggests what is required from the international community and makes some feminist proposals for the re-establishment of social contracts in conflict and fragility.

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Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
Reimagining a feminist social contract in fragile and conflict settings
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Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
A feminist social contract, theologically speaking?

6. A feminist Social Contract, Theologically Speaking

By Kuzipa Nalwamba, World Council of Churches

This essay discusses relational theological imagery constructed by (eco)feminist theologians, including theological discourses that have constructed imagery of the earth as the interconnected body of God, permeated by God’s spirit, thereby rendering it sacred. It draws from examples of African women’s theologies and an intertextual reading of African women’s lives, highlighting the need to affirm and build (inter)relationships in all their diversity as contribution to the envisioned feminist social contract.

7. How can a transformational new social contract be won?

By Ben Phillips

Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. This essay will be about how to change the world together, and looks at:

  • how a transformational new social contract can be realised, looking at
  • how the lessons from history and from emerging currents today can be applied today
  • the important role that faith organisations (and people inspired by faith) have historically played - and could play today - in advancing a social contract that helps all people and our planet thrive
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How can a transformational new social contract be won Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
an illustration of women holding hands around the globe
Reimagining a feminist social contract in fragile and conflict settings

8. The world is waking up

By Kavita Naidu

This essay mourns our planet’s economic collapse amidst rising inequality and a backlash against women’s rights. It explores the root causes of the current global state of affairs, offering an alternative feminist and anti-racist perspective on what could be, including, in our understanding of economies, the recognition of unpaid care and valuing of ecosystem integrity. It also discusses the missed opportunity that was the New International Economic Order, proposed in the 1970s, based on global cooperation with equity, which never came to be.

9. Erosion of multilateralism

By Emilia Reyes, Equidad de Género

This essay discusses how global power imbalances, an elitist disdain for democratic and universal processes and solutions, the rise of fundamentalisms, and overburdening of social movements, environmentalists and human rights defenders, in contexts of exacerbated crises, have depleted the global conditions for a multilateralism based on solidarity, paving the way for corporate capture, and the tools, the vision for a new social contract for multilateralism.

9. Erosion of multilateralism
By Robert Beckford

10. The invisible black women: Gender, reparations and a retroactive social contract

By Robert Beckford

Robert’s essay discusses how social contracts discussion in the West has a poor record on ‘race’ and gender, marginalising Black women’s demands for justice. It stresses the need for specific consideration of the suffering of Black women, and discusses how, despite Black women’s founding and leading role in reparations movements, calculations for financial reparations and the categories for compensation discussed disavow specific gender consideration, failing to address the complexity of enslavement and its long-lasting implications for Black women.

Lessons learnt from grassroots women living in rural and indigenous communities

By Esther Mwaura-Muiru

This essay expounds on the Ideas of social contracts experienced from a grassroots women's perspective who live in rural communities and considers what works. It discusses intrinsic social contracts with nature, solidarity economies and capital, placing emphasis on the need to build social contracts from the ground up and thus ensure the ‘micro’ informs the ‘macro’, because the ‘macro’ structures often marginalise or place external threats to the grassroots fabrics of social contracts.

feminist essay
Reimagining a feminist social contract in fragile and conflict settings

A feminist social contract is rooted in feminist fiscal justice

By Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network

This essay focuses on public financing for public services, the structural constraints and challenges faced by Global South nations and people, possible policy solutions and the need for a shift away from the current system of neoclassical economic epistemology. It addresses the question of a fiscal policy consensus that directs public investments in social sectors and public services that directly support and strengthen gender equality and justice.

What do we owe each other? My reflections on “new and old” social contracts.

By Ikal Ang’elei

Essay looking at community-based versus wider/formal social contracts.

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Credit: Illustration by softwork studio
Reimagining a feminist social contract in fragile and conflict settings