– Dr. Rajani Shakya
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused catastrophe all over the world. It has flipped over lives of several millions of people. It has badly affected economies, and brought our hectic daily lives to a standstill. COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health issue but an unanticipated shock to our societies. Although we are yet to experience its full impact and aftermath, this worldwide threat has already created large uncertainties among all of us.
The Government of Nepal imposed strict lockdown on March 24. Before this pandemic, we were all pretty much occupied in our regular academic activities and many more. But for the last several months, we have been staying at home around the clock with families. It’s a life time experience which none of us have ever made. With the fast-paced life we had hardly got enough time previously to spend with our families. This period has given us the deprived family time generously and brought family members closer.
Practice of working from home has advanced during the pandemic. This is a good practice, especially for women who find difficulty getting out of home for work due to various family obligations. One can get improved work-life balance and can take proper care of kids. This shift to working from home gives women much flexibility to their work. Continuing such practice in universities is not appropriate every time but wherever possible depending upon nature of work, if it could be practiced, it could make life much easier for women staffs. And if you work sincerely, come out with desired results, then it doesn’t matter whether you work from office or home.
This lockdown in an overnight has made every working woman a full-time mother, cook, cleaner, caregiver and many more as family demands. House-helps are also unavailable during this time due to travel restrictions. It has now been more than six months but we, working women, are still struggling to establish a balance in the shared responsibilities. We are heavily juggling professional duties and domestic tasks. Earlier, we used to reach home at around 6:00 pm from office, then we entered the kitchen for the next job awaiting us. We could focus and plan very clearly what to do next at each of these workstations. Suddenly the boundaries that demarcate workplace from home are lost. In these days we are multitasking; we are in the kitchen and also in a meeting; sometimes helping kids with their homework and also checking students’ assignments at the same time. Home schooling has been added to our daily chores list at home. There is no leisure time to think and plan what to do next.
Indubitably, making balance between family responsibility and professional responsibility is very essential. Most of us may be lucky enough to get family support so that continuing work from home is possible. Still there are interruptions now and then, especially if you have small kids at home, and it may be hard getting the same result as being physically present there at the workplace. As it sounds easy, it is not simple to be a work-from-home mom. Though work-from-home concept gives women flexibility of the timing of work but many of us may find it even harder. In our male-dominated society, taking care of kids, other family members and home is considered a responsibility primarily of women. Over here many of us still live in larger joint families, so we also do have responsibility to take care of elderly family members. All these impose additional obligations on women, even when both women and their spouses are working from home during the lockdown. We can find many women who have reduced their duty hours or even left their jobs simply because they have to accomplish all their household chores, and look after their children. We could still find a deep rooted patriarchy in our society.
Even in modern families there are gender disparity to some extent. From the very beginning women are considered as a homemakers and mothers and men as primary wage earners. This mentality hasn’t changed much even today. We still find lack of support system for women. In many occasions their occupancy in domestic tasks may conflict with career demands which lead to women delaying their up-gradation in higher positions. We can find increasing number of working women now a days. But advancement of women in higher authority positions or decision making position has not kept pace with this rise in number. In our workplace most of us are competing with men who have to do far less at home. It’s not that there are exceptions, but in majority of households, it’s the women who find difficulty managing time for their professional growth. In academia also a dip in productivity of women has been reported across the globe. In this pandemic it’s reported that the number of publications from male authors is growing faster than the number of female authors. So, it’s the problem not only of this country. It seems that globally women are lagging behind to some extent during this period.
Having said this we also can seem lots of female health care professionals; doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other doing outstanding work during this difficulty time as a frontline responders. They have left their family back at home, stayed whole day and night at hospitals for caring sick patients. Their sacrifices are extremely appreciable and remarkable. In the amidst of the coronavirus pandemic we have seen that nations led by women have been more successful at containing this disease.
There are lots of obstacles in the way up for women in our society. Getting higher education, coming out of home for career, achieving success one has dreamt is still not so easy for women in our region. But one she gets an opportunity she can show that she is no less than the male counterpart. Being incredibly resilient and task-focused a woman can make significant impact and lead to success of any institution or even a country.
[Dr. Shakya is Associate Professor and Head at the Department of Pharmacy]