The wellness of women

By: Sofia Aliño Logarta October 12,2016 - 08:51 PM

Although most women live longer than men, they have many wellness problems. Many women in our society are poor. Due to their poverty as well as gender-related issues, they are malnourished. Most women are overworked, more so the underprivileged. I will never forget that when I facilitated a gender training and asked what the females wished for, one woman answered that she was looking forward to a time when she could bathe slowly and savor the whole experience. Women also rarely have time to relax and unwind. When we went into an exercise of counting the hours spent on various domestic chores, I asked how many hours they spent taking care of their babies. They confided that for as long as the baby or child was awake, they were caring for the child. It was only when the baby slept that they could take some rest. Women are doing practically everything in the house; during our Bible sharing, a woman said that she had been very hungry because she had spent so much time doing the laundry, she forgot to eat. And this is not like this only in our country. In India, the favored fuel is cow dung because it burns slowly and therefore allowed women to leave what they were cooking while they were occupied with other things around the house.

Ritz came from a marginalized family in Mindanao. She left seeking a better life. From Manila then to Cebu, she was always a househelper with long working hours. Life became even more challenging when she got married and had two sons. Then her husband died, and their house got burned. It was not surprising that she got sick with tubercolosis. Fortunately, a Spanish nurse was among the Alay Kapwa volunteers. She supported Ritz in her journey towards recovery.

Victims of domestic violence come to Legal Alternatives for Women Center, Inc. for legal services as well as psychosocial processing. They get expert legal advice from development lawyer volunteers led by Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago (who used to be with the Visayas Ombudsman). She provides not only legal services but a whole range of assistance, like connecting them with persons who can be of help to the clients. Ms. Fe Cabatingan, a veteran social worker, leads in psychosocial sessions a very important accompaniment of the legal service, because Law Center, Inc. realizes that this is not about winning a legal battle. It is about women’s journey towards women empowerment and their growth towards wholeness. One of the difficulties encountered in the cases is that this is about persons they have loved, the fathers of their children. So at a certain point, they decide to file a case. Then they decide to withdraw. A wise judge required the victim to continue with the psychosocial sessions, even if the case had been withdrawn. Law Center Inc. lawyers never tire of continuing to handle the cases. The psychosocial team keeps their sense of humor as they assist the women in getting in touch with their feelings, and begin to understand their problems and cope with them.
What damages happen to the victims of domestic violence? One woman became deaf because of repeated hitting by her husband of the ear area. Another woman was already a senior citizen when her children accompanied her to Law, Inc. She had become a nervous wreck after years of physical and psychological abuse from her husband.

Other social realities cause disease among women. Cultural expectations related to their gender role may result in illness. Sue Patton Thoele describes in her book “The Courage To Be Yourself”: “Repressed feelings tend to lodge in the body in the form of hidden tensions, unhealthy habits, and stress-induced chemical changes. Often, illness is an expression of feelings repressed.”

“Carl and Stephanie Simonton of the Simonton Cancer Clinic in Texas found that when terminally ill patients expressed their gunnysacked feelings of guilt, rage, fear, etc., their cancer frequently went into remission or at least their symptoms became less acute. Dr. Bernie Siegel, a surgeon who uses love as often as a scalpel, encourages his patients to verbalize explicitly all of their feelings. An amazing number of Dr. Siegel’s ‘terminal’ patients get well.”

Those who worked for years for the Magna Carta of Women had been sensitive to these realities. So “comprehensive health services and health information and education” of which the government has the main responsibility is among the MCW provisions. Now, unlike before when the focus was on maternal health and child care, the law calls for health services for females “from the womb to the tomb.”

But external forces need not be the main source of our wellness. We need to pause. We need to love ourselves because we have to take responsibility for our happiness and healing.

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TAGS: cancer, helper, india, law, Mindanao, Spain, Spanish, Texas, women, women empowerment

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