PUSHING for women’s welfare creates waves of consequences benefiting families and communities.
May 28, which marks the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, reiterates this 30-year-old message: sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are inseparable from the human rights of women, who face marginalization and violence, especially during the pandemic of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Fely, 44, was elated to see on social media that a fellow real estate agent recently posted about getting her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Gun-ob Elementary School in Lapu-Lapu City. Fely and her colleague fall into the A4 priority group, which includes economic frontliners aged between 40 and 59 years that are targeted for mass vaccination in June.
Housewife Mariana, 55, accompanied her elderly husband to the vaccination site at the Agus Gym in Lapu-Lapu City. Noting that the site was nearly empty, Mariana asked if she could also receive the vaccine but was turned down by the coordinators for not being in the A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) groups.
After listening to her appeal, a doctor vaccinated Mariana, pointing out that she is not only part of the A5 (indigent) group but also is an economic frontliner who regularly leaves her home and commutes to earn a living.
To supplement her earnings as a fish vendor at a roadside “talipapa (wet market),” Mariana goes to the houses of neighbors to wash and iron clothes. Fely bought and delivered food products when the pandemic and community quarantine slowed down the market for socialized housing lots and residences. With the relaxation of community quarantine status, Fely is trying to close real estate deals, which require her to meet and take clients on site visits.
Many women who are self-employed, underemployed, or involved in the informal sector are at the forefront of feeding their children and other dependents; helping their children’s studies made more challenging by the shift to the blended learning mode in the pandemic; and running households already entirely dependent on their uncompensated labor even before the pandemic.
Many elderly women, restricted from leaving home under the community quarantine, rely on dwindling resources to economically support their extended families. In local culture, grandmothers are often left with grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, making it more challenging to stretch pensions or senior citizen’s aid from local government units (LGUs).
Women like Fely and Mariana illustrate the need for government and other stakeholders to see women as being at the forefront of the crisis, whether in staying healthy, preventing the spread of Covid-19, keeping the economy afloat, and helping families to be cohesive and whole to survive these times.
Keeping women visible means putting their welfare as a priority in the country’s Covid-19 response and recovery.
“Special lanes” or vaccination centers “dedicated” to senior citizens and other vulnerable groups are included in the IATF’s mandated instructions to LGUs but vaccination of vulnerable groups lags because of the slack in public education and outreach to counter health misconceptions and vaccine hesitancy. Only 1.2 million of the country’s estimated eight million elderly population is reported as having received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Included in the SRHR priorities set by the World Health Organization are Covid-19 programs that intensify the counseling and rescue of women at greater risk of sexual harassment and domestic abuse due to isolation at home with relatives that are abusers; provide equal pay and leadership opportunities for women providing Covid-19 health and care services; and sustain access to sexual and reproductive health services, which includes improving self-care capabilities among communities marginalized in their access to essential health services.