Why Not

Let’s acknowledge it. Women are weavers of the social fabric of our communities.

Everyday, a woman surmounts incalculable challenges – preparing meals, breastfeeding a child, giving birth, laboring to put food on the table, nursing the sick, helping with the homework, dealing with the teenage hormones, calming fights, supporting husbands, amongst many; and often than usual, she overcomes with minimal regard of her own vulnerability to possible sexual violence, exploitation, health-related concerns, and poverty. She does it not because she is required to do so but because it is naturally imprinted in her to provide care, to support, offer safety for those around her, and to fight if need be when the survival of her family is threatened.

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Women survivors talk about life after Yolanda during the Women After the Storm Forum held in Quezon City.

Although we see all these everyday, it is during emergencies that they become striking. In the past months, I have seen women take on roles that are often not observed like when they stood side-by-side their husbands in clearing stilted lands, when they waited in long queues just to get temporary relief, when they walked for hours searching for their lost husbands or children, (and hopefully not to bury them), when they carried dead bodies to be buried in the mass graves, when they embarked on new tasks such as rebuilding and repairing homes, when they start driving people to areas using local vehicles that their dead husbands or sons used to drive, when they cared for children orphaned by Haiyan, when they consoled and encouraged one another to continue living despite the odds. These are things that one could not miss.

Acknowledging these do not mean that we are completely discounting men. No. That is not the point at all. I want that laid out clearly before my words are twisted into misinterpretation. We all know how significant the co-existence of men and women is, and men are needed as much as women are. And over time, we have observed men and women interchange roles depending on their circumstances; but to a certain extent, women still played a more influential part in ensuring health, security, and well-being of communities because they establish and strengthen their roles at the most basic, also recognized as  the smallest, unit of society – the family, where everything starts.

It is necessary that people remember this and if I might be allowed to be crass about it, it is of utmost importance for people to remember whose tits they suckled. So now that this point has been served on a platter, I would like to answer the question that an acquaintance asked. You asked, “Why make a big deal of gender issues and women’s welfare in your work?”

women

My response – WHY THE HECK NOT. Why not train women to be carpenters? They are able-bodied, they learn fast, they have time in their hands, they can multi-task, and there’s a need for more help, so why not. Why not hire them for future construction or rebuilding projects? They get the job done, they are meticulous and give attention to details, and they know the importance of instructions, so why not. Why not ensure that there are women-friendly spaces and facilities? They are blessed with different biological assets and their needs are different from their male counterparts, so why not. Why not establish the bigger roles of the Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) during emergencies? They are the ones who people in dire need – women, youth, children, senior citizens, even men – run to for assistance, so why not. Why not empower women to be parts of committees in communities? They are the ones who are always there – they see and hear everything (I’m not even exaggerating this, seriously) – they are more keen to other people’s needs, they make decisions as a unit and not individually, and they represent not just one sector of the society, so why not. Why  not provide medical care and social support to women during and after emergencies? They are left wide open at every stage of disasters when their bodies are used as mediums of survival with rape as an option for those who aim to dominate and an excuse for those whose aggressions have been displaced due to the disruption caused by the disasters, so why not.

These are just a few of the ‘why nots’ I have in my backpack and for many people, these were reason enough to give women equal consideration.

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