UNFICYP highlights role of women in responding to the health crisis
Women are playing a disproportionately large role worldwide in preventing and responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Globally, women constitute 70% of the health workforce. Didem’s story is a reminder of the essential contribution made by women at all level of the Covid-19 response.
A doctor and medical school lecturer based in Famagusta, Didem has been part of a team of medical professionals treating Covid-19 patients in the Turkish Cypriot community. Didem is also a mother to a two-and-a-half-year-old, who has been staying at home with her husband during the pandemic, while she continues to work.
Speaking to UNFICYP she talked about difficulties in trying to fill the emotional emptiness both her husband and child are experiencing being removed from their friends and loved ones since they have been sheltering at home.
“I know it is impossible to expect round the clock child care and housework from anyone- including from my husband. When I am at home I feel a strong sense of responsibility to spend quality time with them both individually- but there aren’t enough hours in the day for it all.” she said.
As a front-line responder to the health crisis, Didem is also mindful of the need to ensure she mitigates the risk for herself and her family to reduce the potential of contracting the virus. Didem acknowledges that things will return to normal again, but that as a health care professional involved in the Covid-19 response, she is unlikely to have the opportunity for any respite.
Didem says that different social and cultural factors can influence how men and women’s concerns should be considered differently in the context of Covid-19. The reality is that men do not feel as responsible as women for ensuring the housework gets done and children are taken care of.
She also opined that the current isolation experienced by many due to restrictive measures can lead men to get depressed easier than women, but that women also need to be able to have time for rest and sleep, especially now.
Moving forward from here, Didem mentioned that there should be more emphasis on decreasing the responsibility load that many women face, and efforts should be made to ease the burden of housework and caretaking on women. Children should not be raised in families where mothers are expected to do all this work. Even allowing nursing mothers time to feed their babies can lead to healthier children, healthier families, and women who are more enthusiastic and able to contribute to their professional lives.