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Women and this pandemic

PERSPECTIVE - Charry Ballescas (The Freeman) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

When crises and disasters strike, those among the vulnerable are easily the victims. Among the vulnerable are the poor, the women, the girls, the elderly and the PWDs.

Already, even before this pandemic, women and the others among the vulnerable have faced continuing challenges like poverty, hunger, inequality, exclusion, and other forms of discrimination. The pandemic has worsened their situation.

As early as last April 2020, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women raised the early alert that staying home, a protective measure against the virus, allowed another danger to surface, “a shadow pandemic- violence against women” which if unchecked, would “add to the economic impact of COVID-19 (the previous global cost of violence against women approximately USD 1.5 trillion).”

Home confinement breeds “tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries. And it is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behavior behind closed doors. And in parallel, as health systems are stretching to breaking point, domestic violence shelters are also reaching capacity.”

Violence against women has “multiple impacts on women’s wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health, their mental health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of societies and economy.”

According to the Philippine Commission on Women, domestic violence has also escalated throughout the country during this pandemic, with “3 out of 20 women and girls aged 15 to 49 having experienced physical violence.”

The Commission on Population and Development reported that due to community quarantines during this pandemic, “births among girls aged 14 years and below jumped by 7% in 2019.”

When celebrating Women’s Month this March (based on Proclamation No. 227 (1988) and National Women’s Day this March 8 as proclaimed by Republic Act (RA) 6949 (1990), Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Gomez-Dumpit reminds all to “continue the call for enhanced access to justice, the elimination of all forms violence against women, food security/economic justice (as many urban poor and rural women continue to face hunger and unemployment) and, to call out all acts that limit women's political participation.”

The CHR also “calls for gender justice in the government’s COVID-19 recovery plan, including vaccine rollouts and reminds the government to ensure that measures are adopted to ensure that women and girls and sectors facing multiple vulnerabilities are prioritized."

CHR has “dedicated this year's commemoration of National Women's Month to all women who continue to stand at the frontlines in addressing the current Covid-19 pandemic and in the face of rampant human rights violations.”

Taking the lead for this year’s National Women Month’s Celebration, the PCW explained that this 2021 theme: WE Make Change Work for Women”.

WE stands for Women Empowerment which will make the change that GAD advocates, leaders and experts are espousing or any development responsive of women’s concerns.

Make Change Work – for acronym MCW = Magna Carta of Women --the strengthening the implementation of the MCW at all levels which means putting in place functional mechanisms as well as implementing and making known to citizens, programs, and services that address strategic gender needs of women.

Change – Compassionate and Harmonized Actions and Networks for Gender Equality.”

This March 8, let us join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day with its 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge.

“From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, seek out and celebrate women's achievements.”

“Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

“Make International Women's Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women.

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