By Fr. Shay Cullen
We have seen phenomenal developments in the respect, status, freedom, progress and achievements of women in the modern world. They have achieved positions of power as presidents and prime ministers, holding important government and corporate positions and being inspirational, outstanding civic leaders and influencers for the good. They have shown themselves capable in every sphere of life, as intelligent and even more so in many cases than males, becoming astronauts, teachers and leaders. They have succeeded in every profession and are outstanding musicians, singers, scientists, writers, poets, artists and athletes and many more.
Jasmine Harrison, 21, is now the youngest woman in the world to row solo across the Atlantic in 70 days. Chinese director Chloé Zhao, 32, became the first Asian woman to win the best director award at the Golden Globes this year. The 38-year-old was the second woman to win the award and it shows they are making headway yet a long way to go for women in the movie industry.
Besides these successes in gaining status of women to live with dignity and freedom, there are the more essential attributes of great value in a woman’s humanity. That is her intrinsic attitude of nurturing love and caring for others. This is coming from her vital and indispensable femininity upon which humanity depends for its continuity and survival.
It is her unique role to choose to have children, to nurture and protect and care for them and guide and develop them as authentic human beings. That is why her womanhood and motherhood is actually more precious, more important and more vital than that of her male companion.
It is the mother, the source of human life, that has the most powerful influence on the early years of her child to build a sense of security, to give affirmation, to make a family bonded in strong values of trust, honesty, faithfulness and togetherness. A strong family, bonded in mutual respect and support, is the building foundation of society and nationhood. Protecting and supporting family life is a most fundamental responsibility and duty of government. Failure to do so brings disaster and serious social problems of every kind.
Mothers are hurt, pained and challenged by the unfaithfulness of men. As the sometimes irresponsible, promiscuous, morally-bankrupt, vice-prone male seeks multiple partners, the mothers are increasingly abandoned, divorced and left as single mothers to cope and fend for themselves and support their children. The huge number of single mothers that have risen to the challenge to care for their children and work part-time and full-time must give all people a sense of wonderment, reverence and appreciation of their resilience and abilities. Yet it is difficult, hard and lonely as they face a day of labour while caring for their children. Many cannot cope and children are neglected as the mother, some deprived of education, without opportunity, struggle to survive for the day.
The strong contribution of the elderly women, the grandmother in a family, is the strong pillar of support for her daughters and grandchildren continuously helping the struggling fatherless family. It is such women who need, not only the admiration, but the support, help and protection of society. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance” and that the “family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” We know the struggle of women and mothers is not just economic. They are in need of psychological and social services to help them care for their children. The state has responsibilities to support and protect women, the family and children. It is the families all together that makes society, makes a nation possible.
How incredibly infuriating it is to see a huge number of women discriminated against, belittled, abused and made victims of domestic violence by abusive male partners. Their complaints are frequently ignored by a male-dominated state system. The lock-downs and restrictions have given rise to even greater levels of violence against women in relationships, married or with live-in partners. Before the pandemic hit the Philippines, one in every four women suffered domestic violence and with the lock down it has risen by 16 percent. An estimated 839,000 Filipina women have suffered a violent attack by an intimate partner in 2020.
The pandemic lockdown has also endangered girls and children. An increase in child sexual abuse has caused more serious concern in the national and international community of human rights defenders. The increase in online sexual streamed sex abuse shown with young women and children has hugely increased where the Internet service providers (ISPs) like PLDT/Smart and Globe Telecom failed to obey the law (RA 9775) and install effective blocking software to hinder the spread of on-line child sex abuse. When children are subject to child abuse, their future life as an empowered active educated woman is greatly impaired. Everyone has to work together to defend, protect and promote the rights and dignity of women and children.
Shay Cullen is a Missionary priest from Ireland, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban and Founder and President of Preda Foundation since 1975. He has worked protecting women and children from sex slavery and promoting human rights, peace, and non-violence in the Philippines since 1969.