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Every year on March 8th we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world. It is a day to commemorate the struggle of women for equality and the recognition and effective exercise of their rights. This is an important event for us as women and as mothers. On this day we have the opportunity to show our commitment to gender equality and reflect on how we can contribute to a better society.
The official theme of International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. It is an invitation to inspire us as women to challenge prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination based on gender. We are invited to stand up against any structure and attitude that prevents us from exercising our rights and developing our potential. It is a theme that recognizes that from challenge comes change and celebrates all women who have challenged the status quo in favor of women’s rights.
Covid-19 and its Impact on Women
The Inter-American Commission of Women recently carried out a study on the different impacts that Covid-19 has had on women’s lives. The focus of the study is to understand how the pandemic has deepened gender inequality in order to seek initiatives that mitigate the impact. The study highlights the enormous contribution made by women and girls around the world in response to the pandemic, as well as the disproportionate impact on women. According to UN Women, women are in the first line of response as caregivers, health workers, and community organizers. But they are also among the most affected by the high burden of unpaid domestic work, the increase in domestic violence, unemployment, and poverty.
Care Work and Covid-19
Reading the study made me think of the impact that Covid-19 has had on me and my family. It’s been difficult. Particularly being in social distance and having everyone at home. As much as I love my family and being together, I recognize that the pandemic has meant more care work and fatigue.
Last March when the pandemic started in the US there was much uncertainty about the days to come. First, I remember my 2-year-old daughter stopped attending daycare and my husband started working from home. Then, I gave birth to my second child and my mother and family members were unable to come help me during my postpartum recovery. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormous load of care work I had to do. I had to take care of a toddler and a newborn while also keeping up with the housework. Since my husband was working most of the work fell on my shoulders, which I understand. But what troubled me was that I was expected to take charge not because I didn’t have an office job but because I’m a woman.
I mention this because I believe that Covid-19 has revealed certain gender dynamics that occur within the home and are important to question. According to UN Women, women do three times more unpaid domestic work than men. This translates into time and fatigue. Also in the inability to continue advancing in our career, earn more money, or enjoy leisure activities. As a result of the pandemic, many women have decided to give up their careers to meet the new needs of their home, and for many, it will be very difficult to return once the pandemic ends. This is one of the differentiated impacts that we are already seeing reflected in society.
#ChooseToChallenge Gender Dynamics at Home
I believe that on this International Women’s Day it is important to #ChooseToChallenge the gender dynamics within the home because we have the right to develop ourselves fully and gender dynamics can change. If we #ChooseToChallenge I believe the first step should be to recognize that we care about the gender dynamics within our home and distribute the housework equally, as well as the responsibilities of taking care of the children. Recognizing the importance leads to commitment and thus finding a way to create better gender dynamics.
Here are 4 tips that I found very useful on UN Women when starting to talk about gender dynamics at home.
- Invite your family to discuss household responsibilities and care needs. Make a to-do list and have a clear vision of everything that needs to be done to maintain the home.
- If either or both spouses work full time, admit and recognize the value of her/his work. However, do not stop involving the person in the division of tasks.
- When sharing caregiving responsibilities, consider and analyze the strengths of each family member.
- Encourage girls and boys to collaborate equally with household chores.
Sometimes #ChooseToChallenge can be challenging
For me, #ChooseToChallenge and bringing up the conversation with my husband is not always easy. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is to find the way I feel comfortable talking about the topic. I fear entering a heated discussion, making my husband feel unvalued, or transmitting the wrong message. I know my feelings are normal as gender dynamics are hard to navigate. Often times I find it easier to act as tradition tells us to than to challenge. So I come back to my motivation, the reason why I believe it is important.
It is important to #ChooseToChallenge because I aspire to live in harmony. I’d like my children to live in an environment where gender equality is celebrated. I’d like to continue to advance with my career and have time for the things that make me feel alive. In order to achieve this, I believe it is essential that the distribution of care work is balanced. When I find my motivation and speak from the heart often times the universe guides my words.
International Women’s Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our lives and see how we can contribute towards the advancement of women and girls. This invitation includes the home and our personal lives. I believe that the equal distribution of care work is something that improves the quality of our lives dramatically. It translates into more time and a balanced life. I’m aware that #ChooseToChallenge can have its challenges. But collectively we can develop strategies to overcome them and find a way to move forward. This is something I hope to write about in the future. So if you feel inspired to share with me your thoughts or story, I’d be very happy to read you.
Happy International Women’s Day!
ONU Mujeres. 2021. Doce pequeñas acciones con gran impacto para Generación Igualdad. [online] Available at: <https://www.unwomen.org/es/news/stories/2020/2/compilation-small-actions-big-impact-for-generation-equality> [Accessed 26 February 2021].
International Women’s Day. 2021. IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge. [online] Available at: <https://www.internationalwomensday.com/2021Theme> [Accessed 26 February 2021].
Mora Mora, A., Martínez, M., Anderson, H., Piñares, B., Villareal, E. and Sandoval, J., 2020. COVID-19 en la vida de las mujeres: Razones para reconocer los impactos diferenciados. [ebook] Comisión Interamericana de la Mujer, Organización de los Estados Americanos. Available at: <https://www.oas.org/es/cim/docs/ArgumentarioCOVID19-ES.pdf> [Accessed 26 February 2021].