World Voice: Malaysian Women Balancing Business Appearance and Homelife

World Voice: Malaysian Women Balancing Business Appearance and Homelife

How would you react if someone said you needed to “look” better for work? Would you acquiesce or question it?

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/n7Cq2rdd73E

Most of the world is under different stages of working from home due to coronavirus. While Asian countries like China, Indonesia and South Korea are undergoing different phases of reopening after months of lockdown, Malaysia’s work from home “suggestions” from their government during COVID-19 has sparked some controversy.

Back in March, Malaysia was placed under a Movement Control Order (MCO), as a way to control coronavirus. Since people who could work were able to do so from home, the Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development posted some posters on Facebook and Instagram with “suggestions” for women to make themselves presentable by wearing makeup when working from home. In addition, they were asked not to “nag” their husbands about housework or childcare since they would be coming home tired from working to provide for their family.

For most women, the idea to entertain this idea of putting on makeup and not “nag” their husbands about household chores is ludicrous. It is another way of undermining the status of women in the business world as well as in their home. Isn’t it bad enough that men and women have to go through this pandemic without having to cater to the “suggestions” of the government?

How are these ideas helpful? If anything, these suggestions are offensive and stereotyping the role of women. What’s worse is that the person in charge of the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development, Rina Harun, didn’t think this would be an issue. While the suggestions have since been retracted, it still created negative feedback. 

Women activism groups took the government’s handling of this to task. They demanded that the posters be taken down or modified. Harun maintained that the posters were aimed at giving positive pointers during the pandemic, but were they? To me, these posters added to the stress of navigating through these unprecedented events and may have even affected their home life negatively.

Was the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development well-intentioned by creating these posters? They may have thought so, but in my opinion, it backfired. While I don’t claim to know how foreign governments are run, the way the Malaysian government has been treating women during this time is discriminatory and uncalled for. I don’t think that women alone should have to shoulder the responsibilities of working as well as maintaining the home if they have partners. In my opinion, the ideas put forth by the Malaysian ministry stem from patriarchal ideals, and that’s what needs to be addressed if both men and women are to live in close quarters during this pandemic. 

To read the original article:

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/01/825051317/dont-nag-your-husband-during-lock-down-malaysias-government-advises-women

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: Gender Inequality Amidst #Coronavirus

World Voice: Gender Inequality Amidst #Coronavirus

As we all try to wade through the chaos brought on by Coronavirus, it has also given way to other sentiments that are less than desirable: gender inequality.

Women working in rice fields in Asia.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, there has been a large number of women who have been affected the most by it. Women who have jobs have had to cut back or leave their jobs in order to care for their children as a result of school closures. Service jobs that are held by women have had to endure work with less pay or no pay at all if they leave their job. The fallout from this outbreak not only affects women but their families.

Women from China, South Korea, and Japan have had to choose between working in spite of the outbreak or not working which takes away their pay and benefits. Recent statistics reported from an employment-oriented platform Zhipin, states that on average, women earn 84% less than men. That statistic takes into account the differences in industry, years of experience, and occupation. Since levels of education are used as benchmarks to garner one’s earnings, the pay gap is even less if women had earned a Ph.D. or Masters’s degree. The flip side of earning a decent living is not having the time to care for their children if the job requires long hours. While their contribution to the workforce is valuable in principle, the reality is far from it.

The age-old ideal of patriarchy is still alive and well in so many countries, but to see how it still controls women and their daily lives during this time is unbelievable. These women are willing to provide for their families but at what cost? It is unlikely that whether they keep working or not would make a difference since there are cultures who still see and treat women as burdens, not worthy of being cared for by their society.

What is just as unfathomable is that even if these women had jobs, they are still expected to take care of the children without help. It’s the notion that men bring home the paycheck and even if women did make money, it wasn’t seen as substantial enough to provide for their family. It’s not fair, but women who rely on a paycheck may back down from being assertive at their job, to ensure that they don’t get laid off or fired.

In this time of uncertainty, gender inequality should not be an added stressor or have such importance when it comes to providing for one’s family, but unfortunately, it is. 

I’m not saying that every Asian culture discriminates against women, but there are people in these cultures who don’t value women or their contributions to their society. How are these women being protected by their country during a pandemic if their society doesn’t support their needs? How can women feel empowered if their culture still considers them as second class citizens? 

Gender inequality is also present in the United States, not just in some Asian countries. While the treatment of women in the States is not as brutal as parts of Asia, it is just as palpable. Women in the States make less than men because they are perceived to be less committed to their jobs, especially if women have children. According to PayScale.com, in 2020 women earn 81 cents for every $1 earned by men. Men have been seen as being more productive than women due to their physical makeup or the perceived lack of commitment when it concerns childcare. In reality, women have been able to do the same jobs men can do in almost every occupation, regardless of their domestic situation.

They are faced with these notions even during a pandemic and it’s not going away anytime soon. So long as companies or society see women as less productive than men, women will have to keep fighting for their rights and risk their health until perceptions are changed. I do hope that it doesn’t take another natural disaster for women to be taken seriously or given the right to take care of their family without being penalized by society. 

To read the articles regarding this post, click below:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51705199
https://www.ft.com/content/6fdaa854-5798-11ea-abe5-8e03987b7b20

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Social Distancing When We Are Socially Connected

COVID-19 has thrust so many from different countries to be on alert. Every day, the rules and regulations from different governments are changing, not just in the United States, but on a global level.

When this virus made its presence known in December in Wuhan, China, I heard about its existence from various news outlets, but at that point, it was a disease that was affecting people in China, not the United States. Even when I heard that the virus had affected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, I was concerned for them, but didn’t think it would ever affect my neck of the woods; and I was so wrong.

When the virus hit Italy and the number of casualties kept getting higher, as well as fear of its spread to other countries, I started to wonder how we, as a country, would we react? I got my answer when the first confirmed case came from someone who lives in New York, not far from where my brother-in-law lives.

The result affected me in waves of disbelief and fear. Disbelief that this virus had made its way to my state and affected a whole community, and fear for how many more people would become casualties from one person. Since the confirmation of this person’s sickness a few weeks ago, his community has been on lockdown and continues to be so, making it impossible for my brother-in-law and his fiancé to leave.

As the number of casualties continues to rise, businesses, schools, and the economy have been affected, not just here in the States, but globally. My daughter is just one among thousands whose schools have been mandated to close for a few weeks or longer and continue their schoolwork remotely. While my daughter is able to continue learning remotely, others are not as fortunate.

As for my husband and I, we have been affected by this virus in a circuitous way. We had plans on attending a family member’s Bat Mitzvah in New York last week along with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew in tow. Upon learning that New York had become a hot spot for COVID-19 and more people were testing positive from this virus, my husband and daughter thought it best that we cancel our trip because my mother-in-law and I have compromised health issues. While I was initially disappointed and sad that we couldn’t be with our daughter and extended family for this special occasion, I knew that it was the right decision to make.

We thought we had dodged the virus until we found out that my sister-in-law’s ex-husband may have come in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. While my mother-in-law and I did not have any physical contact with him, my husband and sister-in-law did when they had to pick up my nephew from him in North Carolina. The intention was to have my nephew drive up with us for the Bat Mitzvah, before we decided not to go. Up until we found out about my ex-brother-in-law’s situation a few days ago, my husband and I were busy showing our family our new home and neighborhood.

The news of his possible contact impacted us differently. My husband, who had never been a doomsday believer went out to the stores and bought enough food to last us for a few weeks. In addition, he also installed a Purell dispenser in our bathroom so we could all use it as needed. As for me, the thought of not having my daughter living in the same state as us worried me. I started to realize that this crisis has no end date and we are all affected, one way or another.

In light of how this virus has affected us locally and globally, the idea of “social distancing” has become a necessity. For someone like me who loves to be around people, I thought social distancing would be hard to do; that it would make me stir crazy to have restrictions of socializing with people other than my family. I was wrong.

Social distancing is allowing me to be mindful of how I act around other people. It is helping me become aware of how my actions affect those around me and my community. Others may look at social distancing as punishment, but for me, it is a way to slow down and realize that doing this one action could help reduce the spread of the virus. I don’t know how long or how many more people will be affected by COVID-19, but I do believe that social distancing is one way of refocusing the way we think about this virus, those affected by it and how we move forward from it.

This is an original post by Tes Silverman written for World Moms Network.

World Voice Editor

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Universally, women and girls menstruate. The age may vary for every young girl, but the experience can be traumatic, sometimes even deadly.

I recently came upon two news items that shocked and saddened me. The first story was of an 11-year-old girl from the UK who had her period while in school. When she asked to be excused to go to the bathroom because her period had soaked through her clothes, she was refused by two staff members on two separate occasions. 

The young girl was trying to avoid being singled out by the rest of her class, possibly the whole school. Instead of being supported by the staff, she was dismissed, which traumatized her from going back to school. Since those incidents, the girl has been given a bathroom pass, but the damage had been done. According to a study done by Plan International UK back in 2017, 49% of girls and young women aged 14-21 have missed at least one day of school as a result of their period. In addition to being humiliated for having a period and pain as a result of it, the cost of buying sanitary products may be prohibitive. Period poverty in the UK affects about 10% of girls who can’t afford them and 12% find ways to create makeshift sanitary wear just to have something. There have been initiatives launched like the Red Box Project based in Bristol, where period products are given for free, but more has to be done to eliminate the discrimination felt by girls and women who are affected.

The second story was about 21-year old Parbati Borgati from Nepal who was staying in a menstrual hut during her period and died of suffocation from smoke inhalation. Borgati who had been staying in this abandoned hut decided to keep warm one cold night by burning wood and clothing and tragically died in her sleep. Menstrual huts are not unusual for women in some parts of Nepal, India, and Africa and the concept of these huts comes from years of tradition and in some cases, out of religion.

The tradition of “chhaupadi” In Nepal is part of a long-standing belief stemming from Hinduism that during a woman’s menstrual cycle, she is deemed unclean. As part of this tradition, women are banned from being in the kitchen, using kitchen utensils, sharing meals, going to the temple or being with their families, and are segregated to huts made from mud or stone. The huts are no bigger than closets and these women brave the elements and pests on their own. 

In recent years, women’s rights activists have fought to end “chhaupadi”.  Even the government of Nepal has outlawed menstrual huts since 2005. They have gone so far as to criminalize it this past August for those who continue to force women to use them, but unfortunately in some western villages of Nepal, these actions have not been as successful. While tradition can be blamed for the continuity of their use, guilt plays a huge part in it as well. In areas where menstrual huts have been used by women for generations, it is difficult for them to turn their backs on what’s been viewed as part of their way of life. 

One of the ways that “chhaupadi” is being discouraged is through cash incentives. Recently, a rural governor has offered to give $5,000 rupees to any woman who rejects using menstrual sheds. While it seems like a great solution, it’s not sustainable since so many still use these sheds out of tradition and fear of being ostracized by their families for not following this custom.

My experience with menstruation did not result in tragedy, but it was still traumatizing for a thirteen-year-old girl. I was on a family vacation when I got my period while playing outdoors with my cousins. I felt some discharge on my underwear and thought I had soiled myself. I ran to the bathroom and was gripped with fear when I saw blood on my underwear, unaware of what was happening to me. It wasn’t until my aunt knocked on the bathroom door to see if I was okay that I told her about the blood. It was then that I was educated about “periods” and what I should do next and in the future. 

Why was I told about “periods” by my aunt, as opposed to my mother? As someone whose mother came from the Philippines, the word “period” was never discussed in her household, so I was never educated about it by my mother. This was a silent “problem” and no one was allowed to talk about it to anyone, especially men. Gender roles play a big part in a lot of Filipino families, and “periods” are seen as female problems. While there have been strides over the years to ensure that young women in rural parts of the Philippines are educated about menstruation as those living in urban areas, the perception of having a “period” is still seen as a woman’s problem. 

In light of last year’s Academy Awards event in the US  where the award for Best Foreign Film was given to a documentary short made in India titled, “Period. End of a Sentence.”, there has been a great amount of awareness brought towards the issue of menstruation. Created by Rayka Zehtabchi, the film showed how menstruation is still a taboo subject in rural parts of India and that even the word “period” evokes shame for girls and ignorance for boys. Education about menstruation plays a huge part in breaking the taboo it has affected generations of girls and boys. What struck me was how the girls reacted towards the word as opposed to the boys. The girls were painfully self-conscious saying the word, while the boys were quite unaffected by the issue, even worse, had no idea what the word “period” meant.

The film follows some women in rural Hapur district, just outside of Delhi, India, and exposes the contradicting points of view regarding menstruation between genders and as seen by older generations, but there were positive results as well. Discussing the subject of menstruation and the necessity of safe menstrual products like pads was crucial for both genders. Another positive outcome of the film was creating job opportunities for these women so they could feel empowered. That opportunity would come from an unlikely source, a man named Arunachalam Murugunantham from Tamil Nadu. 

When Muruganantham found out that his wife was using newspapers or filthy rags for her period, he decided to create sanitary pads that were safe and could be purchased at a low cost. Muruganantham created a pad machine that made sanitary pads using cellulose fibers from pine wood pulp, which was great for absorption and retaining the pad’s shape. Traditionally, men have never been involved with anything related to menstruation, especially in rural parts of India, so it’s no surprise that Muruganantham’s wife, Shanti, was not supportive of his invention in the beginning.

Muruganantham’s goal of educating young women about safe sanitary pads through his pad machine and the rise of a micro-economy from selling them in local stores at a low cost has given these women the confidence to provide for their families. It was amazing to see the transformation of these women from being shy and silent about the topic of “periods” to feeling empowered and ready to provide for themselves and their communities as a result of Muruganantham’s invention. 

The success of “Period. End of Sentence.” is an indication that more has to be done to enlighten parts of the world about menstruation. In today’s world where women from Western countries can speak freely about reproductive health, it’s heartbreaking to see other women that are still suppressed either by tradition or guilt to speak out about issues that harm them or lose their lives, just like the women who died in the menstrual huts. It is my hope that this film continues to break gender inequity, not just in India but in other parts of the world where women are banished just because they have their period. No woman deserves to feel invisible or worse, lose their life due to a lack of education, especially about their bodies.

To read the articles regarding this post, click below:

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/bristol-schoolgirl-period-refused-toilet-uk/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US_Jan_17_2019_content_digest_template_test_single_image

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/nepal-woman-period-death-fire-hut-menstruation-hut-illegal-parbati-bogati-a8760911.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/12/17/787808530/menstrual-huts-are-illegal-in-nepal-so-why-are-women-still-dying-in-them

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

Every person I know values their privacy, but what happens when you find out that your privacy has been invaded, or worse, been subject to scrutiny without your knowledge?

Women in South Korea are currently fighting for their right to privacy, especially when it involves spy cams in public bathrooms. The installation of these microcameras have been a huge problem for women who view these as a gross invasion of their privacy. Privacy in Korea is seen as an illusion since it is seen as a way of protecting their citizens from any crimes, but for Chung Soo-young, this was not okay.

Soo-young was a victim of being spied on in a public bathroom of a chain coffee shops last winter and decided to fight back by creating an “emergency kit” through a crowdfunding project to protect against “molka” or hidden cameras. This kit includes an ice pick to break tiny camera lenses, stickers with messages warning of illegal filming, and a tube of silicone sealant to fill up holes and stickers to cover them. Soo-young had no idea that her kit would become such a hit, and inspire women to fight for their right to privacy. Since its inception, 600 women have bought the kits which costs $12 and do their part in preventing illegal filming of them.

Women in South Korea have been fighting to keep their privacy intact, but it’s difficult when the laws exerted by the government to protect them are not enough to stop the rampant sharing of these molka videos by men. What’s worse is that these men then “share” these videos online as pornography and the women they target never know about it, unless they discover them by accident. These videos have become a new category of pornography, whereby the subjects have no knowledge of their involvement. Even the punishment of those caught is quite lenient and can be perceived as being favorable towards men. Spy cams have given license to digital peeping Toms, at the expense of women’s safety.

Punishment for illegal filming has also spurred women to fight the gender bias surrounding them. For the men who have been arrested for these crimes, their punishment has been less stringent than what should fit the crime. Of the men who were caught, only 31.5 percent of them were prosecuted and 8.7 percent received jail sentences. To highlight the gender bias, when a woman was caught sharing a nude photo of a male model, she was sentenced to serve a 10-month jail term, which in my opinion was unfair in comparison to sharing pornography. According to a report by the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report, Korea ranks 118th out of 144 with regards to how women are viewed and treated and it hasn’t gotten better in light of the current crimes against them.

In light of the #MeToo movement, one would think that women who speak out against their attackers would have the courts on their side, but unfortunately not. A recent case involving a former governor of South ChungCheong and his secretary shed light to the gender bias women in South Korea still face. When Kim Ji-eun brought up charges of sexual abuse from her former boss, Ahn Hee-jung, instead of being jailed for his crimes, was acquitted from rape and sexual harassment. Hee-jung resigned from his post, but not before claiming that the relationship was consensual. For Kim, the ruling was not unexpected and solidified the gender bias towards women.

Women are fighting back by holding protests, as in the one this past August in Seoul, when about 70,000 women called upon their government for tougher laws against sexual violence and hidden-camera pornography. While the government responded by doing regular sweeps in public bathrooms and providing support systems for the victims, these women believe that more has to be done.

For someone who lives in the U.S., I have been in clothing store dressing rooms where notices are posted to let you know that you are under camera surveillance while you try on clothes to prevent you from shoplifting. There are 13 states that prohibit dressing room surveillance:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah. While I understand their policy, I do feel uncomfortable knowing that I’m being watched as I try on clothes in a public setting. The discovery of being videotaped without one’s knowledge could result in deep-rooted distrust of the authority who are supposed to protect them, and affect their outlook on how society treats them. This is what’s happening in South Korea, and while so many women are fighting back, I fear that they have a long road ahead until their government takes the matter of sexual violence and hidden-camera pornorgraphy seriously and create laws to punish criminals regardless of their gender. Here’s hoping that they continue to protest and hold their government accountable for the crimes perpetrated against them.

To read the article regarding this post, click below:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/19/648720360/south-korean-women-fight-back-against-spy-cams-in-public-bathrooms

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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