Wadzi Motsi-Khatai

Country Expert:

Center for Intersectional Justice, Berlin, Germany

Wadzanai joined the Center for Intersectional Justice, Berlin, in January 2020. She holds a BA in International Relations from Grinnell College and is currently pursuing her Master in Public Administration at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Wadzanai has over 6 years of experience working with government, international non-profit organizations, as well as community organizations. Her diverse professional experience includes working with the Government of Zimbabwe to develop national strategies for HIV testing, and treatment for children, working with young political activists in Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana, the Czech Republic and Cambodia, as well as building a community for a circular economy in Berlin, Germany. She is also a regular contributor to the African Affairs Forum in Germany, and initiator of the Sangano Business Hub; both projects that work to connect African policy experts and entrepreneurs, in the German diaspora. Wadzanai is committed to building a more inclusive, mindful and socially just world and collaborating with communities to create new models for living and working together.

Contact: wmk@intersectionaljustice.org

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Civil Society & Marginalised Groups

Edited by Sanaa Alimia and Gianluca Parolin. Working Paper Series for the Governance Programme at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London. 2020

Submission Date: 18 May, 2020

Question #1: Public Trust

Is the government response to the pandemic being met with public approval? Please specify where this assessment is taken from, i.e. YouGov Poll, newspaper headlines, etc.

Domestically and internationally, Germany has received praise for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, in-country approval ratings for Angela Merkel’s government have increased (Eurobarometer, 2020) along with support for the government’s swift and transparent action that effectively coordinated with the Federal States to contain the pandemic while providing state support for those affected by the crisis. By April’s end, the public approval rating for the government had increased to 70%, bolstered by support for its approach to managing the crisis, (YouGov, 2020). However, according to a YouGov survey conducted on behalf of the German Press Agency, there is still some hesitation on how to transition post the pandemic as one in two Germans felt social distancing restrictions were easing too quickly (WELT, 2020), and restrictions should remain in place longer.

Image credit: Rebecca Holm.

Question #2: Accurate Statistics?

Are accurate statistics on infection rates and death rates available? If so, who is producing this information? And is this information trusted by the public?

National statistics on the infection and death rates are maintained and updated regularly by the Robert Koch Institute. Using an electronic notification system, in line with the Protection Against Infection Law, RKI provides a detailed daily (data closure 12:00 AM) overview of the pandemic in Germany, mapping the distribution of cases over time, the demographic distribution of cases, clinical breakdowns of current cases, as well as the clinical assessment of death and recoveries. Produced in both English and German, the RKI briefing has provided the foundation of both the local and international understanding of the Coronavirus’ evolution in Germany. The RKI is the Federal government’s central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine, and a respected source for information.

Question #3: Support for Vulnerable

In instances of a lockdown, what support is available for vulnerable persons, i.e. domestic abuse victims, less able bodied persons?

Domestic violence

At the beginning of the pandemic, local, national and European organizations called for governments to provide support to victims of domestic violence, as lockdowns placed them at greater risk of abuse. In response, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth launched a campaign, Stronger than Violence, in partnership with several major supermarkets to post information for domestic assault services. Currently, in Berlin, organizations continue to provide services remotely via email and phone. Berlin Child protective services are maintaining its 24-hour hotline throughout the pandemic as well. (Langowski, Piontek, 2020)

Social services

The city of Berlin has an online repository of social services available to vulnerable persons, including people living with disabilities, older adults, the economically vulnerable and refugees. The platform answers questions about how state services are affected by the pandemic, how residents can stay safe and how to access emergency services when needed. The platform also provides links to community-based organizations and networks in Berlin (e.g. nebenan.de). However, certain services remain closed, including facilities for childcare and for people living with disabilities.

Communication accessibility

The Federal Ministry of Health developed an information portal with information and resources about the virus, with translations in Arabic, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Kurdish, Paschto, Persian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, as well as overviews in Braille and sign language.

Question #4: Marginalised Groups

What are some of the challenges that marginalized groups, i.e. low-income households, religious/ ethnic minorities, face with regards to the pandemic?

  • Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Asylum seekers and refugees are particularly exposed during this pandemic as media outlets have reported on crowded conditions in facilities, poor hygiene conditions, as well as increasing numbers of people testing positive for Coronavirus in certain facilities. Refugee networks and advocates have criticized the government for failing to provide better protection against infections.

  • People with disabilities

Access to information, as well as Coronavirus hotlines and services, are still limited for the deaf in particular, as the Federal Ministry of Health was slow to develop information in sign language.

  • Minorities

There has been an increase in incidents of racism, particularly for people of Asian descent living in Germany as a result of the Coronavirus. Since March, the Anti-Discrimination Network of Berlin has reported an increase in incidents of racism as people perceived to be Asian verbally attacked in public spaces, (ADNB, 2020). The High Council of the African Community in Germany (ZAGD) has also reported increases in incidents of discrimination against people of African descent during the pandemic.

  • Social protections

In March, the Federal Government approved an aid package to support small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs, unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, relaxation of rent restrictions among other benefits to strengthen the social security net during the pandemic.

  • Older adults

Older adults are at greater risk to Coronavirus, and the pandemic has affected their life in a variety of ways in Germany, including their health and social service.

Question #5: Local Activism

How are local community groups and/or political groups responding to the pandemic in terms of providing support/ relief to vulnerable persons and/or marginalized groups?

Many local organizations have come together to either advocate for more inclusive government support of marginalized groups or to provide direct support and relief during the pandemic.


  • The German Women’s Association of Lawyers has called for inclusive support from the government that considers the gender dynamics of lockdowns, including the closing of daycare centers.
  • KARUNA e.V. is coordinating an online campaign advocating for safe accommodation for the homeless during the pandemic. Several other organizations are raising funds [1] for the provision of basic necessities as well.
  • Community advocates have started a petition to enable parents to manage child care and professional demands during the pandemic.
  • The CIJ launched the Factsheet: Intersectionality at a Glance in Europe as a resource and tool for critiquing and developing intersectional policy approaches and initiatives, particularly during the pandemic.

Direct Action

  • Several organizations are coordinating community volunteering to provide help and assistance to those in need during the pandemic. For example, Solidarity Neighborhood Aid and Against the Virus connect people offering aid, assistance and support, to those in need during the crisis.
  • In Berlin, Queer Relief Covid-19 provides help to those who are immunocompromised, prioritizing marginalized communities and refugee communities are coming together to sew masks and provide food services to neighbourhoods in the city.

[1] NB: many organizations are fundraising for various emergency COVID-19 related initiatives across the country using platforms such as betterplace.org.

Question #6: Other comments

The Center for Intersectional Justice is a non-profit organization founded in 2017 and based in Berlin. We engage in advocacy and policy-oriented research to make anti-discrimination and equality policy more inclusive and address structural inequalities more effectively in Europe. The CIJ seeks to influence the public discourse and impact on policy-making through direct advocacy, research and policy advice, as well as publications on issues related to intersectional discriminations based on race, gender, class and all other systems of oppression which sustain inequality.

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