Let Us Empower Women Through High FQ (Part 1 of 2)
I have advocated for women’s rights ever since I can remember. It was never the bra-burning type of protest but a quiet advocacy by living my own feminine life to its fullest, not being limited to what traditional society dictates, but formed and decided by my own conscience.
I am lucky to have a good role model in my mom who had a stronger personality than my dad, but never ever exhibited that vibe of a domineering wife. My four siblings and I are blessed to have witnessed their strong marriage of 61 years, with all the fun, challenges, triumphs, and realities of growing old together until they both rejoined their creator in 2017 and 2018. Oh my! I still miss them. I can’t help but tear up now remembering them, but I guess these tears are tears of gratitude that go with hopes that their legacy will live on in all their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on.
I am also fortunate that in our country gender inequality is not a debilitating cultural and systemic problem. Yes, we still have issues on gender pay gap, that long debate on the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill that divided our country, leaving women, particularly the less privileged ones, with little or no choice with regard to family planning, the lopsided laws on adultery and concubinage, etc., but the Philippines has managed to rank among the top 10 in gender equality among 145 countries.
I will always be grateful to Insular Life for the recognition they gave me when they launched their gender inclusion campaign dubbed InLife Sheroes. It made me more aware of the importance of what I’m doing.
The campaign dreams to benefit one million Filipinas in one year by offering help on health, careers, relationships, and finance. It has also brought me face to face with admirable women not just from the Philippines but from all over the world as the project is in partnership with IFC (International Finance Corp.), a member of the World Bank Group.
Unpaid Work of Women
If we look all over the world, the women’s plight is really multi-faceted, but for this article I wish to delve on the issue of women’s unpaid work.
When I decided to say goodbye to my promising investment banking career to give my focused and undivided attention to our young sons, we gave up half of our family income. I was very fortunate to be married to someone who never made me feel that his income was just his but ours. The decision to become a single-income family was ours. It had always been very clear to me, to us, that we were equal partners. When I first heard about talks on monetizing what a stay-at-home mom did, I was not very keen on it. I would always say, “Why ask to be paid when you co-own everything?” But I was speaking from my privileged perspective. And when I say “privileged,” I don’t mean being very wealthy, but privileged to have that equal partnership with my husband. It is my reality and it was what I saw in my parents during times when my father was the only one earning, when both of them were earning, and when my mom continued earning long after my dad took his early retirement. I would always think that it was a simple matter of the wife standing her ground.
Today, after learning about real stories of women worldwide, I change my position. It is not a simple case of women standing their ground. It is a societal problem that should be solved by the entire society.
In the book The Moment of Lift (How Empowering Women Changes the World) by Melinda French Gates, co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she narrates stories of women she did not just interview but lived with. Yes, she did, in order to have a clearer understanding of the problems their foundation was trying to solve. Her book is a must read for anyone who’s serious about women empowerment. She shares poignant stories of women who do not have knowledge and access to family planning, of unthinkable stories of child brides, of unpaid labor, and other gender biases that are so systemic, it would take generations to solve. I am very happy that at the helm of the largest foundation in the world is Melinda Gates, a Catholic woman, smart, with a great dose of empathy and humility solving this enormous problem involving half of the world’s population! And she also brings her children with her because she wants her children to have real connections with other people. The guiding principle of their foundation is “Every life has equal value. One life on this planet is no more valuable than the next.”
The story of Champa
One of my favorite chapters in the book is Chapter 5: The Silent Inequality: Unpaid Work. It opens with a story of Champa, a 22-year old mother in tribal India living with her husband, three children, and in-laws in a two-room hut. Her two-year-old daughter is suffering from acute severe malnutrition, a condition that leads to death if not treated immediately. The health workers explain that she could no longer be fed normal food and required special treatment administered at the Malnutrition Treatment Center. This means that Champa and her sick daughter would be away for about two weeks, and they have to leave soon. And do you know the reaction of her father-in-law, the grandfather of her sick child?
“Champa can’t go! She has to stay and cook for the family!”
The health workers ask to see the father-in-law to explain the situation. They find him lying down in a field drunk, “Your granddaughter will die if she doesn’t get her treatment.” To that the grandfather replies, “Champa can’t go! It’s out of the question, leaving for two weeks. If God takes away one child, he always gives another one. God is very great and generous in this respect.”
My stomach churned and I don’t know what I could have said or done if I were one of the health workers. No one offered to step into this poor woman’s role to cook, not even if it meant the life of her child, their own flesh and blood!
You might be wondering what happened. Did Champa defy her father-in-law? Did the husband fight for his wife and daughter? Did the daughter die of severe acute malnutrition at home?
Here’s what happened– Champa stayed home to cook! Thank God the child’s life was saved because the health workers intervened, taking the role of the mother.
The sad thing is that this is not an exceptional case. Many women all over the world share this story with Champa. All they do is cook and clean and let their children die in their arms. They are so powerless.
Story continued on Let's Empower Women Through High FQ (Part 2 of 2)
Rose Fres Fausto is FQ Mom (FQ stands for Financial Intelligence Quotient). She was an investment banker turned full-time homemaker and now a writer and speaker on money and family. She’s a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Behavioral Economist, having trained under Dan Ariely, the Father of B.E. Richard Thaler, and recently completed a B.E. course at the Harvard Business School. She wrote bestsellers Raising Pinoy Boys, The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions), FQ: The nth Intelligence. She has a weekly column in PhilStar.com and regularly contributes to other magazines.
Post A Comment
AUTHOR BIO Rose Fres Fausto is FQ Mom. FQ stands for Financial Intelligence Quotient. Investment banker turned full-time homemaker, she is now a writer and speaker on money and family.