Friday, November 2, 2012

Random Thought # 1: Disposable Relationships

Romantic relationships are disposable these days, I told a friend over chat this evening. There's annulment, divorce, legal/physical separation, and clean break ups, and dirty ones. Sometimes, people just drop one another like hot potatoes.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

A Malala in All of Us

"Because education is a powerful thing," answered Angelina Jolie when asked by her children why Taliban men attempted to kill Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year-old schoolgirl who started a movement for girls' education in Pakistan.

The story of Malala is both shocking and inspiring even for Filipinos who face immense challenges in achieving quality education for all. On the surface, Taliban restrictions on girls' education that usually resort to violence seem totally alien. However, there are other forms of gender-based oppression that set aside girls in many family decisions regarding education. These forms of oppression need not be inflicted by the usual suspects - men; there are far bigger causes such as culture, economics, and environment, which men alone cannot be blamed for.

In the absence of statistical information, we can refer to commonly shared stories of poor families where the male children are given priority in education out of the notion that they will be the ones to take their families out of poverty while the girls are destined to become mere homemakers anyway. Hence, girls are made to stay at home to take care of younger siblings, do household chores, and fetch water from distant springs or wells. Girls' vulnerability to violence and lack of access to clean, working toilets also contribute to high dropout and low enrollment rates. (Many may not realize how important toilets are for girls in their puberty!)

News of Malala's recovery certainly mean more opportunities to further her advocacy as she lives to tell her tale. We look forward to the day when men and women play equitable roles in all societies across the globe because they both have equal access to education.

Worth reading:

1. We All Are Malala by Angelina Jolie in The Daily Beast.
2. Malala and the Women of Malolos by Prof. Ambeth Ocampo in The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
3. Malala Yousafzai: Portrait of the girl blogger in BBC News

Monday, May 21, 2012

Catching Up with Princess Nemenzo

Back in 2004, I met Princess Nemenzo through a series of referrals from the NGO network. She was invited to speak at a small, hastily organized feminist rendezvous of several Ateneo students called Mulieris Day.

Excavated the announcement from the Mulieris e-group.

More than being former UP President Dodong Nemenzo's other half, Ma'am Princess is one of the most-respected women in the NGO sector, being a pioneer in the country's feminist movement and having advocated for political freedom since the 1960s. (Read more about Princess Nemenzo's contributions to the sector here and here.)

From her talk, one statement caught my attention and haunted me throughout the trying years that followed: How can women fight for their cause when they sleep with the enemy? Expounding the statement using Ma'am Princess own words out of my memory is now a challenge so instead, allow me to quote Scott London in The Future of Feminism: An Interview with Christina Hoff Summers:

This is another problem with feminism. Women think they form a discrete tribe. But we are intimately connected with "the enemy" — with men. They are our brothers, our fathers, our sons, and their fate is our fate. So I think the movement has a problem from the very beginning. Women will always be found sleeping with the enemy and making alliances with the so-called enemy. So there are fallacies there too that we will unite in sisterhood. (Emphasis supplied.)

I took the opportunity to bring up this particular memory from eight years ago when I saw Ma'am Princess at the Health Justice Media Briefing where she served as a panelist on behalf of Women's Health Philippines. As a way of fulfilling our unity in sisterhood, I also shared some of my own experiences as a young woman that put my feminist ideals into test.

Catching up with Princess Nemenzo was something I've always looked forward to, especially after three years' worth of failed attempts to blog something about women's strange relationship with the "enemy." Circumstances considered, I would have to say that meeting her again is more a product of fate than chance.

Two generations of feminists -- a lovely picture indeed!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Women and the Workplace: Night Work and Solo Parent Leave (Part 2)

Cathy (not her real name) works at an organization with 24/7 operations. Having just returned from maternity leave, she complains about her late-night shift as the schedule limits her time to breastfeed her baby. She also expressed concerns about her supervisor who does not allow her to take leaves for emergencies involving her baby. This, despite the fact that everyone in her workplace knows: Cathy is a solo parent.

Republic Act (RA) No. 10151, "An Act Allowing the Employment of Night Workers, Thereby Repealing Articles 130 and 131 of the Labor Code," actually caters to Cathy's first concern. The Act may be more known for enabling women to take on work assignments at night (from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am) as a means of promoting equal employment opportunities for women and men; but more than this, RA 10151 also provides women with alternatives to night work on special circumstances, which are described as follows:

(a) Before and after childbirth, for a period of at least sixteen (16) weeks, which shall be divided between the time before and after childbirth;
(b) For additional periods, in respect of which a medical certificate is produced stating that said additional periods are necessary for the health of the mother or child:
    (1) During pregnancy;
    (2) During a specified time beyond the period, after childbirth is fixed pursuant to subparagraph (a) above, the length of which shall be determined by the DOLE after consulting the labor organizations and employers.

Article 158 of the Act further provides that "a woman worker shall not be dismissed or given notice of dismissal, except for just or authorized causes provided for in this Code that are not connected with pregnancy, childbirth and childcare responsibilities." The same goes for her status, seniority, access to promotion, among other benefits.

Should pregnant women and nursing mothers really be needed to take on night work, a certification on the woman's fitness to render night work must be issued by a competent physician, other than the company's. Read more here.

Meanwhile, for Cathy's other concern, RA 8972 or the "Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000" actually entitles solo parents--both women and men--to take seven (7) days parental leave in addition to the vacation leaves, sick leaves and other service incentive leaves being provided by employers. Such parental leaves may be availed only under two conditions: one, the solo parent must have a Solo Parent ID issued by the City/Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office; and two, when the solo parent has rendered service for at least one (1) year in her current employer.

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This post is written in response to the the concerns commonly raised by friends who are in the same situation as Cathy. Somehow, I feel morally obliged to perform a "layman's" research on such topics and post my learnings on this blog. Special thanks to Atty. Nikki de Vega for her column, New Law on Night Workers, at the Business Franchising PH.

The next installment of the Women and the Workplace series shall delve more on the issues of solo parenthood in line with Sen. Loren Legarda's pending bill, Senate Bill No. 1439, which seeks to add more support and benefits to solo parents.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The 162 to 52 Coalition: Accelerating Maternal Health Development

There is hope to curbing the high maternal mortality rates in the Philippines.

Yesterday, various stakeholders from the government, the academe, and the private sector attended the 162 to 52 Summit, which aim to boost multi-sectoral efforts in addressing the maternal and child health challenges of the country.

Everyday, 11 mothers in the Philippines die due to childbirth and pregnancy-related complications. According to the 2010 statistics of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the country loses 162 mothers out of 100,000 live births. Maternal deaths impact infant and child mortality rates as well since children who are left without mothers are three to 10 times more at risk of dying. More than this, the death of mothers affect the psycho-social wellness of orphaned children and widowed husbands, as well as entail losses to the economy.

The state of the Filipino mothers therefore makes the Millennium Development Goal # 5, which for the Philippines is the reduction of maternal deaths from 162 to 52 per 100,000 live births, the least likely to be achieved by 2015. Not meeting this target gives rise to the possibility that progress made on the other MDGs will be reversed--particularly on ending poverty and hunger, and reducing infant and child mortality. (Click here to view the NSCB MDG Watch.)

The 162 to 52 goal therefore calls for drastic measures. The complexity of the factors causing maternal deaths means that solutions lie not only on the hands of medical professionals. We need political leaders who will drive change, businesses that will target their corporate social responsibility on women and mothers, and civil society organizations who will sustain such efforts and bring them down to the grassroots.

Hence, the summit launched the 162 to 52 Coalition as a means of bringing together the country's key sectors to focus efforts on accelerating developments in maternal and child health. Aside from the good line up of speakers in the summit, which included the current and past secretaries of the Department of Health; governors and mayors; business leaders; and international agency representatives, the summit held an exhibit which featured priority areas for maternal health programs as well as the modes of public-private partnerships (PPPs) that may be undertaken by the attendees.

The summit is just a step, albeit a commendable one, towards the reduction and ultimately, the elimination, of maternal deaths in the Philippines. The real journey begins on a bumpy road.

Click here to join the Coalition.
For more info, contact the Zuellig Family Foundation via the following telephone numbers +63 (2) 821-4332, 821-4428, 8213329 .

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Let me end this post with this simple yet inspiring and creatively-rendered video shared by Ms. Ugochi Daniels, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund.