GiveHer5 Pandemic Blog Gender Equality

Thoughts on Gender Equality during the Covid-19 Pandemic

This pandemic has been unprecedented – no one saw anything of this magnitude coming. In the initial months, it was a global lockdown, and now we are at the stage of phased openings in a bid to kickstart a floundering economy. This pandemic has turned everything upside down. The old way of life is over, and a new normal has set in – one that requires you to wear a mask and stay hygienic. At GiveHer5, our biggest concern was to ensure our reusable sanitary pads reach menstruators in remote areas. In the first few weeks of lockdown, supply chains went for a toss in all sectors, being open to only products and services in the essential services sector. Thankfully, with the easing of restrictions in the last couple of months, we have been able to move around and get our Saafkins to those in need, powered by donations from those who empathize with period poverty and menstrual hygiene. 

Another concern has been the gender disparity between men and women amid this global pandemic. There are so many ways to look at this. Many businesses have had to shut shop or downsize during this time, and more often than not, it has been women employees who have been the first to face the repercussions through either pay cuts or being laid-off. Millions of women living in poverty, earning a daily wage lost access to their income overnight and in turn, had no means to support their families. 

Another forced ‘new normal’ has been working remotely from home. While this move has cut down draining office hours and long commute times, many people, both men and women, are finding it very hard to balance working from home with taking care of other home-related expectations and chores. Cooking, looking after parents, ensuring homeschooling stays efficient while kids stick to a new routine and keeping the house running smoothly, topped with having to work from home can be a handful! We don’t have to guess which of the two genders have more of these expectations heaped on them, while also needing to keep their bosses at work happy. Unfortunately, women are not recognized enough for their ability to balance different facets of their lives with ease and grace. Instead, it’s quite the contrary.

We wonder what this means for the overall well being of women because they have to work with whatever limited time they have, as well as be a caretaker of both the house and the family – how do they cope with menstruation? Especially when cramps are severe or the first two days demand bedrest? Can they afford to take rest? When the line between work and home life becomes blurry, it can be hard to switch off from one and move to the other, leaving women feeling overwhelmed.

Another worrying trend is a surge in domestic violence. With nowhere to go and limited socialization, the very place we call home, a shelter from the outside world is no longer safe when the husband or partner is prone to alcoholism or other triggers that cause rage outbursts. Unfortunately, cases of mental, verbal and even physical abuse have sprung up during the pandemic lockdown. So, when you look at all these points, it is clear that in closing the gap between men and women with regards to gender equality, we have a long, long way to go. 

Not so long ago, Zomato a food delivery app, announced that they would be initiating period leave for their women workers – a move that received both applause and outcry. Many people believed that this was just performative, while others were appreciative and thought this was a step in the right direction. Some men were against it, as it was an extra set of leaves, over and above what they would be getting. Many others acknowledged the need for women to have this leeway and recognized that this was not a point to which they needed to contribute their opinions. Women too had mixed reactions. While some said they welcomed this move, others complained that women didn’t need a specific label for sick leave and instead, thought it would be wise to suck it up and get on with your day like generations of women before had. A latent worry that emerged was about the implications of taking the period leave; i.e. what the consequences would be for their career growth and salaries would be when their bosses calculated how many days they would be away from the office. 

At GiveHer5, we feel that period leave is a step in the right direction. Those who do not need to utilize it can carry on knowing it is there should they need it, while those who require it should not have to think twice. For several women, the first two days of menstruation comes with severe cramps, nausea, back pain, stomach pain, headaches and so on. To have the opportunity to take leave would have a positive impact on their mental and physical well being as well as increase their overall productivity at work. The question is how each organization implements this period leave policy – will women be made to feel guilty by their male colleagues or worse, will their female colleagues look down on them for their perceived weakness? The work culture needs to be inclusive and progressive enough to welcome a policy like period leave as something normal and destigmatized. Trans folks too should be able to take period leave without feeling like there is a target on their back from bosses or co-workers. 

GiveHer5 Pandemic Gender Equality

All this talk comes back to our point in gender equality. Why does implementing something for the well-being of women, permit men to argue that this is unfair? They do not have to go through monthly periods, and they don’t know what it is like to go through such severe pain. The fact is until there is no collective uproar from people who do not go through menstruation or any female-related issue, gender equality is a very far-sighted dream. We are aware there are battles to be won on this topic, but so long as it exists, we will continue to use our platform for the benefit of all menstruators. 

Visit our website www.giveher5.org to know more about how we contribute to providing women & girls across India with more opportunities to bridge the gender equality gap.

 


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