By Jofelle Tesorio

27 MARCH 2021, THE NETHERLANDS – Bayanihan Foundation (Centre for Filipijnse Vrouwen in Nederland) celebrated the International Women’s Day in March with a forum attended by around 67 participants – women from around Europe, The US and the Philippines. 

Maria Theresa M. Alders, Second Secretary and Consul at the Philippine Embassy, The Netherlands, gave a talk on the theme: ‘Gender Equality Starts at Home’.

Being a foreign-service officer, a mother, and married to a non-Filipino, Alders shared life experiences as well as theoretical and practical situations on gender equality at home.

Alders opened her presentation with questions: 

a) In this day and age, is there really gender equality at home? 

b) What does it mean to have gender equality at home? 

c) As mothers, daughters and sisters, how can we ensure gender equality in our homes? 

By highlighting Filipino commercials from different era, Alders showed that inequality at home has been mirrored in media. Traditional roles for women as mothers and caregivers have always been presented. In the commercials, women take care of the children and do household chores like doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning and tidying the house, while men participate more in administrative matters  such as going to the bank, paying water, electricity and gas bills, home repairs and car maintenance. 

House chores are considered feminine roles, while those considered male or neutral tasks do not involve daily devotion. 

Alders also shared data and research findings on the inequality of house chores distribution between genders.

She added that the role of women as caregiver her entire life does not appear to end. 

“As a woman transitions from younger to older adulthood, the nature of family responsibility shifts. Child-caring would lessen as children grow up and require less attention, but a transition to caring for grandchildren while also caring for elderly parents may increase her caregiving duties in later life,” she said.

The double burden on women is apparent – whether they are stay-at-home mothers, not married or working, Alders said.

“At the home-front, dual income couples with children are found to have more conflicts between the partners and a higher level of stress than those without children…The perception of inequality in housework, thereby the perception of injustice and perceived quality of the relationship, often occurs when women are more socially and emotionally independent from their partners,” she added.

Modern commercials do present men as more equal partners when it comes to household chores. However, in reality, according to some participants, the burden still falls on women especially among the Filipino households. 

A question was raised:  As women carry the burden of household chores and child rearing, how do we help women minimize the negative impacts that Alders cited (i.e. sickness absence, marital conflict and health)? 

For many women in the forum, it is a balancing act and the key is being open with your partner on how to share the chores at home.  Others shared their experiences; how they managed to have a gender-equal household. However, they said, many women in the world are still stuck in an unequal balance of power at home.

The Bayanihan Foundation IWD forum was opened by Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza, chairperson of the board. An inspirational poem was read by Agnes van de Beek-Pavia and Salome Panoy gave a beautiful rendition of her own composition about women.