INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY Women cyclists on Sunday make a fresh call for an end to violence against women and children ahead of Monday's International Women's Day. —NIÑO JESUS ORBETA
In each of the four times I gave birth, I felt an incomparable love flood over me when I held my children for the first time (I still do now when they let me, hehe).
My strength and my life are not my own, I share them with my children. A mother wants nothing more than to partake in the joy of who her children have become, and to be a balm no matter what age they are to the pains the world will inevitably inflict on them.
But when it is also ravaged by a pandemic that cuts off your air supply, the world becomes even more sinister when your child has severe asthma. Our family had lost my late husband, their Papa, to the ailment.
So when my youngest daughter Sinta, her breathing belabored, woke me up late in the evening to ask me to take her to the emergency room because her asthma medicine was not working, it was a nightmare come true. These days, the hospital is the last place anyone wants to be. I was afraid because it is where most of the COVID-19 cases are, and it was definitely not where I wanted to bring my immunocompromised daughter. But we had no choice.
There is no such thing as a part-time job for a woman. I am a full-time mother as I am a full-time senator. There is no mathematical balance because one responsibility is as demanding as the other. After testing negative for the coronavirus, we were able to get a room after waiting for several hours. The coldness of the room, the beeping machines, sleeping with a mask and the worry made it difficult for both of us. All the energy was drained from me that day so I asked my staff if I could sit out that day's Senate session.
At the front lines
Later that same afternoon, I learned that the voting on the University of the Philippines-Department of National Defense accord would be down to the wire. It was an attack on democracy; I could not be absent. But I also could not leave Sinta alone so I changed into the decent T-shirt I had with me. It was not ideal, but it was the best I could do to be present for a crucial moment I could not miss.
It is because I am a mother and a daughter that I understand the value of being a senator. A mother who has her own four children, a daughter who takes care of and worries for her senior citizen mommy, and a senator who has long believed in democracy and a better health-care system and sees how both are under threat today. These are what keep my feet rooted in the ground.
Many women and girls experience the COVID-19 pandemic as a cost of inequality. It is an amplifier of the heavy weight of our multiple roles, of all the wounds and holes of our systems, institutions and beliefs that have always been there. It has to a great magnitude exaggerated existing oppressions: A lack of access to health care, joblessness in the millions, hunger and domestic abuse, among so many others.
The Filipino woman in the pandemic lives with the consequences of society's failures. She is at the front lines of where we need to heal the most. She knows what it is like to care for everyone first and herself last. She knows all too well the painful places where we must begin the work to truly recover from the pandemic. It is why we have seen women leaders around the world tackle and contain this pandemic in ways many of their counterparts have not. Through the misogyny, women leaders worldwide show that what we can bring to the table saves and changes many lives anyway.
Womanhood is a gift we bring to the world because we know the importance of a deep value for duty rooted in compassion. Womanhood has taught us that it is what we do for the people we love, the connections we make, and the mindfulness more than the bravado to get the job done, that will save us.
Today, Sinta is finally in the process of healing. It is unfair that her asthma still hangs over her head but it has never impeded her free spirit. She hiked with me on a tree-planting activity, she still judiciously takes care of a horse, and even in the scare of the pandemic still hopes to become a health worker. The passion and perseverance of my children give me hope that I carry with me in every decision I make for the country.
This crisis has bared so many problems; it is time to trust in what women experience and to act on the belief that women's freedom is all our freedom. Wounds will remain open so long as there are women we leave in the cracks. Equality and equity are the foundation for any healing we can ever hope to experience, now and in the future.
For centuries, we have asked the question of what will bring us out of perpetual poverty and injustice. Maybe as we do the hard work of walking to the other side, we can pause and listen to the woman in the room. Womanhood is, after all, a gift we can all partake of if only we are willing to accept it fully. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
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