The International Women’s Day celebration this year was expected to be subdued against the backdrop of the pandemic yet, Oxfam Philippines, in partnership with UN Women, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), and over 120 women’s organizations and agencies and media partner, Rappler and MovePH, organized almost two months of activities, mostly online, that engaged the broadest spectrum of women and girls, highlighting Oxfam’s commitment to putting gender at the core of its work.
This year’s celebration started with a virtual march on February 8, a full month away from International Women’s Day, to discuss the gendered impacts of Covid-19 and what we can do to combat the ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence. This was followed by a string of workshops, leadership and networking events, a speech festival, a photo exhibit, and photo essay contest. The ‘Zoomposium’ on March 8, International Women’s Day accents the campaign that emphasized the centrality of women’s contributions and leadership in addressing the challenges of the pandemic, including the kind of ‘care infrastructure’ that is needed to support women who also represent about 70% of frontline workers and first responders.
The Zoomposium featured four women in leadership representing business and food security, community and local governance, science and front liners, and the diplomatic corps
Vice President Leni Robredo lauded the growing number of women joining the chorus to fight for the rights of women, mothers, and leaders said, “there are many of us who are unafraid to show what competent leadership looks like. Many of us are brave enough to step up to the plate even in the face of the greatest crisis of our time. We are made for times like this, and any difficulty can be turned into an opportunity to lead with great resolve and great strength; through the strength that empowers rather than the illusory strength that oppresses and frightens others to silence, the kind of strength that nurtures, unites and lifts all so that they can be the best that they can be.”
Cherrie Atilano talked about women innovating and enabling spaces for others to cope with the crisis. She blazed the trail in reaching out to the farming community and, in the process, came up with a food security program that effectively helped farmers cope with the difficulties of the crisis.
Odiongan, Romblon Mayor Trina Fabic talked about breaking grounds and rising to leadership challenges. Fabic went beyond her mandate and addressed the pandemic’s challenges and, in the process, under her leadership, the municipality effectively responded to the emerging new normal and demands of the pandemic.
Harvard Medical School instructor and scientist Joann Diray Arce talked about breaking glass ceilings and nurturing resilience. Arce is involved in developing COVID tests and offered a unique perspective on how women, even as an immigrant, can lead the pandemic response and design inclusive recovery programs.
German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel talked about compassionate and collective leadership and shared stories from the successful implementation of women-led pandemic responses. Ambassador Reiffenstuel provided global perspectives on women’s and working mothers’ struggles in meeting career demands i and the hopeful future when gender equality is a reality.
Artist Alyana Cabral fused traditional with experimental and pop with poetry, performed two beautiful numbers as a tribute to women. Oxfam Ambassador for Resiliency, Antoinette Taus, hosted the Zoomposium with the enthusiasm of a women’s rights advocate.
The Zoomposium is Oxfam Philippines’ main event for International Women’s Day, but its commitment to women empowerment and gender justice continues beyond March 8. It has slated to release a gender snapshot on the impact of the lockdown and the intervening natural disasters on women as part of its vision of establishing a knowledge and learning hub on gender justice in the time of and recovery after COVID-19.
The Zoomposium will be broadcasted by Rappler on March 11, on the first anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, the central theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.
Oxfam Philippines will wrap its two-month celebration with a grand Womenar on March 19 where it will also launch a video series on “Managers and Leaders” featuring women in leadership and women without official titles but rose to leadership to respond to the challenges of the pandemic. It will also announce the winners of its worldwide Photo Essay Contest.
Nomel I. Gilongos
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