By Shay Cullen
There are millions of strong women of mind and heart that have achieved personal freedom, found success and achievement by their determination and courage to thwart the insults and hinderance of males who continue to cling to the notoriously ridiculous notion that they are superior to women and should have more power, positions, privileges and higher pay. It is this attitude of male dominance that poses one of the greatest challenges to women in fighting for equality and justice in the world today. Women are among the most successful businesspeople in the world and it is the working mothers who work hard and long hours for little pay to support millions of single-mother families. Penguins are more faithful husbands than many men.
The abandoned working women bravely struggle to survive with their children. This week, we found Jemma, one 35-year-old mother of seven small children whose 13-year-old child was sexually abused by her third live-in partner. She is uneducated and has to work as a live-in house help for a rich family and leave her kids with a neighbor, hungry and neglected.
Help will be provided now. Not only on the factory floor, but in the highest level of business management, women are not only conspicuously absent but they are on average paid less than men doing the same job. The BBC China editor Carrie Gracie quit over a pay dispute when it was revealed that she was being paid much less than her male counterparts. A culture of gender inequality was at work, she said. A finding later revealed that men are being paid 9.3 percent more than women.
Women have achieved great triumphs in sports and endurance achievements. I mentioned recently the young 22-year-old English woman who recently rowed a boat singlehanded across the Atlantic in 70 days. In tennis, unequal gender pay was and still is notorious in many sports today. It was not until the famous tennis champion Billie Jean king said she would boycott the 1973 US Open tennis grand slam unless the prize money was equal as that of the men. She won and the male-dominated sports surrendered and the organizers capitulated. At the Miami Open championship, she said: “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.” However, the English Wimbledon Tennis Club did not pay equal prize money until a fracas and protest arose that forced them to close the gender prize money gap only in 2007 no less. However, in 2015, at the tennis championship tournament in Ohio, the prize money for women was less than that for men.
Roger Federer was paid US$731,000 while Serena Williams received only US$495,000.
Today, the struggle and campaign for equality, rights, respect and human dignity of women goes on because the rights of women are not universally respected. They have become stronger, more vocal and empowered in recent years where the exposure of abuse is on the centre state with the #MeToo Movement and the successful campaigns against child sexual abuse. In past years, it was taboo, the no talk culture of silence has instilled fear in almost every woman and child who suffered abuse. It is only many years later that a man or woman find the strength and opportunity to speak out. It is usually when one bravest of all steps up and complains.
We must give women and children the opportunity to tell their truth and share their story and give help and support. Everyone with a heart and compassion for the abused have to be also strong and open to accept and understand, ready to listen and believe the story and complaint. Public awareness campaigns are vital to change further the attitude of the public to realize that there is massive women and child abuse and especially at this time of Covid-19 pandemic when many are forced to live in lockdown.
In 2017 , the National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority says that one in every four Filipino women and children age 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their abusers or husband or partner. Female victims of child sexual abuse left untreated leaves the child traumatized, to grow up in fear of rape and sexual abuse. That is why intervention, protection, healing and empowerment therapy is so important. At every level of social status, rich, middle class, poor, besides formal education, there has to be additional human rights training for boys and girls from the earliest age in human dignity and equality. Women have to be empowered economically by having skills training and small business opportunities and thus take control over their lives. The economic power of women is essential for changing the inequality and the injustice in societies where women are treated unfairly and regulated to some lower status than males.
Money talks and in community-based Grameen loaning schemes, it is the women who are mostly given the loans. They are considered stronger, more reliable to pay back and wiser in using the loans and more caring of the needs of the children. Having money empowers the women and gives them status and respect in the community and in their families. The education of boys and men in values to respect girls and women is vital. They must be taught that their own value and dignity as a human being and role in family and society is rooted in the respect for the dignity of females. We need to take action by having a gentle, friendly chat with children asking if anything bad ever happened to them and offering to help them if it had. Listening with affirmation and understanding is opening a door for a child to share her story of abuse. Then, get help immediately. You can call or text information to Philippine number +63 917 532 4453 or email me at email@example.com. We will direct immediate help wherever the child is and get professional help to him or her. Everyone must do their part to save abused 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.