Let’s be fair

Published by rudy Date posted on January 30, 2009

President Barack Obama has broken down one of the two remaining social barriers in the world.

Fifty years ago, 30 white men chasing a black man was the Ku Klux Klan. Then it was the PGA (30 white men chasing Tiger Woods). Today it is 30 white men lusting for a position a black man has won. Racial equality is now a reality in America, truly a great country for having become one so dramatically and conclusively.

The second barrier was almost broken too, but not quite. Sexism still exists. Installing Hillary would have broken down the many barriers there too, the way Barack’s win will have radically shifted the attitude to blacks in the country. It would have started a movement that’s yet to be completed, and that’s treating women truly equally.

We’ve come a long way since women’s suffrage was finally recognized in 1948 when the UN passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but we’ve still ways to go. Women don’t wear petticoats anymore (does a young lady today even know what they are?). They wear pants —and mini skirts. And they hold top jobs in companies; there’s even been a number of top women political leaders. We’ve had two lady presidents, and there’s a third gunning for the position —she has an equal chance with the men of making it.

But there are two areas where equality hasn’t occurred, and that’s in the workplace and in religion. Moslems still dress and treat their women the same way they’ve done for centuries, at least in public. And the Taliban, admittedly a rabid extremist group, has banned girls from education in Pakistan.

The Roman Catholic Church has two standards, too. I lightheartedly pointed out how the dress code in church is more stringent for women than men. But there’s something more fundamental I don’t understand and that’s the treatment in their hierarchy. No woman has ever been Pope, let alone a bishop or even a priest.

Even God is called the Father when it’s far more likely he’s the Mother, given the loving, caring nature of mothers for their children.

I know I can’t win this argument because earthly logic succumbs to religious beliefs and I can’t argue against beliefs, but it does seem wrong to me that women aren’t given an equal role in the church.

The other area where we are wrong is somewhere we can do something about. And that’s how women are treated in the workplace. It’s a hell of a lot better than it was in 19th century sweat shops, but it’s still got a way to go.

In the Philippines, an association has been formed to try to go that extra way. They are looking for no more than fair treatment and compassion for working women. And for the ability of women to make up their own mind on issues important to them.

The association is called WOW-M— Working with Working Mothers—and is a group of women (and of supportive men) led by Helen Perez-Macasaet.

Their goal is to get companies to recognize that mothers have a dual role that fathers don’t (generally) have. That’s to look after, to mother the children. At the moment, in the main, corporate policies don’t acknowledge this. If you are supposed to work eight hours a day every day, then you work eight hours regardless of whether you have a baby to care for or not.

Yet Filipinos have a love for their babies way above world average, it’s one of the lovely aspects of Philippine culture (another, which I personally particularly like, is reverence for old age). But that, as Conrado de Quiros would say, is another story. Despite this, companies give a totally inadequate two months maternity leave and no opportunity to care for the baby while working.

We’d like to change that. Mothers need to breastfeed, care and cuddle their babies almost full time for the first six months. The baby is vulnerable, helpless and in need of love and continuous attention. It provides the foundation for a secure, confident life later on.

We’d like to see six months maternity leave, but in this heartless competitive world that would put the Philippines at a competitive disadvantage to other countries. And would encourage unscrupulous companies to hire only men and, maybe, single women.

But maybe the government could start a movement by providing six months to mothers in government service. There’s no competition to lose out to there. And maybe companies could voluntarily offer longer time where they can.

Senator Pia Cayetano has introduced a law, The Expanded Breastfeeding Act, that would require lactation stations in companies. But better would be to include nursing stations as with yayas or lolas around bringing the baby to the mother would be no big deal. And a half hour break wouldn’t much affect the company’s performance. This would be a good compromise step for now until the world recognizes the need to care more for mothers than money.

The deliberate misinformation that is peddled in opposition to infant formula use is quite unsettling to me. One time a representative of the health sector said, in front of me on TV, that 16,000 babies die yearly because of the use of infant formula. That is totally untrue. What killed those babies were many things, one of them the use of breast milk “substitutes” that were not infant formula but totally unsuitable and risky other things: evaporated milk, rice water, even coconut milk. Liquids never meant for or safe for babies.

There is no real substitute for breast milk, but infant formula is the safest alternative. Note: Alternative, not substitute. But there’s a lot of deliberate misinformation disseminated about the use of infant formula milk.

There are bills in Congress today that would deny this reality and would go far beyond the reality of motherhood. They would ban the promotion and dissemination of information on the correct use of infant formula for the first two years. This is neither practical nor sensible. There are mothers that can’t breastfeed for medical and other reasons, and mothers who choose not to (some young mothers find it too burdensome). While I don’t agree with those who “choose” not to breastfeed, it is their choice and they have a democratic right to it. And if they so choose they need to know what is safe to use. That’s where infant formula comes in. It’s the only alternative designed to be safe for babies.

I’ve talked to the companies that produce infant formula milk, they have a responsible attitude, they’d actively support the Health Department in campaigns to promote breastfeeding. But with the proviso that if the woman can’t or doesn’t wish to breastfeed, using infant formula milk is the safe alternative. Can someone please tell me what’s wrong with that?

The fanatical determination to push through breastfeeding only and no advice on anything else denies the reality in the real world and puts babies at risk.

I suggest congressmen and senators sit down with mothers, particularly working mothers (and in today’s economic straits we need to give as many women as possible the opportunity to work to help support their families) and get their side of the story.–Peter Wallace, Manila Standard Today

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