A year ago on the 8th of March, the big news stories that hugged the headlines in Victoria were all about the outbreak of the new coronavirus, except one — that of a loggerhead turtle that travelled 37,000 kms from Cape Town in South Africa to Australia. The top story, in fact, was a violent brawl at a Woolworths over toilet paper. “I just want one pack,” said one woman caught on camera as she held on tight to something dear to many at that time when there were a lot of uncertainties over the new virus.
We may laugh at the toilet paper stories now, but the COVID pandemic has turned our lives upside down in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.
In the Philippines, all headlines carried the state of emergency declared by President Rodrigo Duterte after the confirmation of the first case of local transmission in the country.
What followed were dark harrowing days we would rather bury in the recesses of our memories but whose lessons we can definitely learn from.
Women most affected
In her paper Women most affected by pandemics: Lessons from past outbreaks, Claire Wenham, says that women “bear the brunt of care responsibilities as schools close and family members fall ill. They are at greater risk of domestic violence and are disproportionately disadvantaged by reduced access to sexual and reproductive health services.”
The recent pandemic has shown that as women had to take on the home-schooling and caring responsibilities more than men, the former had fewer hours of employment than the latter, thus exacerbating their financial insecurities and mental distress.
And even if the fatality rate has been twice higher for men than for women, there are pieces of evidence showing that women were affected much more profoundly than men at home and as frontline workers.
The good news is that disasters such as the pandemic present an “opportunity to build better, stronger, more resilient societies that could bring relief as well as hope to all women on earth.”
Purple Mondays and gender issues
March 8 is celebrated worldwide as the International Women’s Day. In the Philippines, however, we celebrate the entire month of March as the National Women’s Month. It marks the founding anniversary of the Philippine Commission on Women (or PCW, formerly known as the National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women), the national machinery on women. PCW has chosen the color purple to help raise the level of awareness on women’s issues.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the PCW and the 25th year of the Beijing Platform Action, the global roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls.
It may be worth mentioning here that two Filipino women diplomats put together the first draft of what would become the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Minerva Abuyuan Falcon, a junior officer in 1975 and Leticia Ramos-Shahani who then chaired the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
#Purple Mondays, according to PCW, is a public show supporting the declaration of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It may well be that purple is associated with passion, third eye, fulfilment, vitality, wisdom, devotion and creativity. But when all is said and done, the intent will be the most effective driving force to this endeavour: We have to bounce back!