During the past four months after the volcanic eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, most families have been virtually forced to stay at home. Most fathers, mothers or adult children are working from home while younger children are also at home because schools and higher education institutions are still closed. In some cases, this has produced negative results largely because of the change of environment and routine, with more stress and tension because most family members have little or nothing to do. But in most cases, the “stay at home” guideline has produced positive results with parents spending more quality time with their children and children with their parents.
Yesterday, the United Nations marked the International Day of Families as a recognition of the principle that good, sharing and caring families are the foundation of a just and fair society. The world body in a statement has outlined the role of families in development from the Copenhagen meeting to the Beijing meeting. The UN says this year’s 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen declaration and Beijing platform for action come at a time of one of the most challenging global health and social crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp focus the importance of investing in social policies protecting the most vulnerable individuals and families, the UN says. By 03:00 pm yesterday, the number of COVID-19 patients was about 4,543,000 while the death toll was more than 303,600. As we have said earlier, the ironic factor is that the world’s richest and most powerful country the Unites States has been the epicenter of the pandemic with some experts saying they fear it may become endemic. Most independent analysts say the US disaster was largely due to the political agenda of President Donald Trump who is widely accused of double talk and deceit, inconsistency and lack of credibility. Mr. Trump won the 2015 presidential election on his promise to make America great again.
Most independent analysts say he has plunged the country into America being alone and dethroning itself from its position as the free world’s leader. By 03:00 pm yesterday, the number of US coronavirus patients was more than 1,458,000 and the death toll almost 87,000 with major disputes between Mr. Trump and State Governors on how and when to reopen the economy with the unemployment rate reaching about 30,000,000, the worst in US history. Even some medical and science experts fear opening the economy too soon or too much might lead to a re-explosion in the COVID-19 pandemic with one reputed expert warning that the US may face its worst winter in history.
According to the UN, it is the families which bear the brunt of the crisis, sheltering their members from harm, caring for out-of-schoolchildren and at the same time continuing their work responsibilities. Families have become the hub of inter-generational interactions that support the world in this crisis.
Under economic duress, poverty deepens. In times of uncertainty, stress increases -- often resulting in growing violence against women and children. That is why the support for vulnerable families -- those who have lost their income, those in inadequate housing, those with young children and older people with disabilities -- is imperative now more than ever, the UN says.
Worldwide, women are increasingly taking part in the formal and informal labour force, while continuing to assume a disproportionate burden of the household work in comparison with men, and work-family balance is more difficult to achieve. The imperative of ensuring gender equality in the family is, therefore, gaining more attention. As the world struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real opportunity to rethink and transform the way our economies and societies function to foster greater equality.
We hope this happens in Sri Lanka too and there would be a growth in gender equality and a greater role for women and girls in our families because sociologists say families are the most effective domestic places of worship.