Recognising the economic disruption brought about by COVID-19 as both a threat and an opportunity to advance gender equality, Investing in Women (IW) has established three new partnerships for campaigns that will seek to influence gender norms in the context of the pandemic.
IW has signed partnerships with two NGOs: Oxfam in the Philippines and Yayasan Plan International Indonesia, and public relations firm Indonesia Communication (ID COMM). These partners will identify and promote positive changes in gender norms in homes and workplaces during COVID-19.
“COVID-19 disproportionately impacts women whose multiple burdens are amplified by lockdowns, retrenchments and home-schooling. But there is also evidence of positive changes. Some men, for example, are increasingly sharing the caring roles at home,” IW CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes said.
In December 2020 surveys by the Indonesia and Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (IBCWE and PBCWE), around half of women (50% in Indonesia, 55% in the Philippines) reported negative impacts to their physical health because of increased domestic burdens.
A third of men in both countries also attributed being physically worse off during COVID to increased responsibilities at home amid the pandemic (32% in Indonesia, 41% in the Philippines).
Around half of women and men survey in the two countries, however, also pointed out positive changes in the workplace amid COVID-19 such as flexible work arrangements, an increase in paid leave and greater support for working from home.
Gender equality at home
The IW-supported campaigns also seek to promote greater uptake of these support policies among both women and men and a more equitable distribution of unpaid care work at home to address the increasing mental and physical stress of domestic work during the pandemic.
“Our new partners will seek out early adopters and showcase their examples to a broad audience. Because what we see impacts what we do, our hope is that the campaigns will help normalise gender equality at home and in workplaces during the pandemic and beyond,” Dr Newton-Howes said.
In the Philippines, Oxfam is running a campaign that promotes examples of men sharing in care work. On Father’s Day in June, it launched a competition called #FlexYourHouseband, which encouraged women to share photos and stories of how their partners are taking on childcare and chores.
Oxfam Philippines is building on the findings of its recent National Household Care Survey, where the men surveyed in 2021 said they spend eight hours a day doing unpaid care work compared to five hours a day among men surveyed in 2017.
The two new partners in Indonesia will also promote positive changes in gender attitudes and behaviours at home and in workplaces. Plan Indonesia will identify such shifts through crowdsourcing, while ID COMM will do so by analysing social media discourse about gender equality during COVID.
In addition to new partnerships that specifically promote positive deviance from gender norms because of COVID, IW is supporting all other partners in ensuring that the campaigns recognise and address the impact of COVID on gender norms.
In support of employees
In Indonesia, Yayasan Pulih’s module on mental health and gender norms responds to interest from companies to provide mental health support for their employees as most firms continue to implement work from home arrangements. QBO in the Philippines has highlighted how women tech industry leaders navigate the pandemic and support their employees.
In Vietnam, the Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE Vietnam) has launched a photo competition called #NewNormalNewMe to showcase how COVID has changed urban millennials’ lives at home and at work.
“COVID is a disruption that affects everyone globally. As we act to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID, we should also see the window of opportunity to address long-standing problems, including gender equality, to ensure an inclusive economic recovery,” Dr Newton-Howes said.