COVID DIARIES: Pandemic from gender perspective

October 9, 2020 News

COVID DIARIES: Pandemic from gender perspective 

Students from the Department of Social Work at University of Pristina, in Kosovo, were asked by their professor, Vjollca Krasniqi, to keep a diary during the pandemic to examine how gender influenced their daily life. Read their stories:  

All the chores double when you have to do with 10 family members. 

Written by Liridona Selmani,  

The alarm rings sharp at 8 o’clock. Nobody hurries to go out. There is no more pressure we will be late to go anywhere. However, we still need to cook breakfast and serve it, wash the dishes, clean the rooms, and the house must smell lavender all around! All the chores double when you have to do with 10 family members. More meals, more needs and wishes to be fulfilled, more corners of the house to be kept clean and in order. More and more and more… counting seems to have no end. As hard as this may sound, in an environment where children have been properly educated by their parents or any other person, this is a very positive thing. 

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“What used to start as a day full of activities, lots of people, and a shining light outside, has now taken a different nuance. It is not “Love in the Time of Cholera” from Marquez, but it’s life in the time of Corona virus… “ 

“More” is now converted into a helping hand. More people to contribute, serve, and finish given responsibilities. Even my little brother cannot escape from this duties’ division, even though he is the “only son”. But he is a good role model! My father cooks meals, makes his bed when he wakes up and is always ready to help us, even if it is “women’s job”.  

One day my little brother decided to help me clean the balcony. At that moment, a car passed by, with two boys his age inside. When they saw my brother with his sleeves rolled up and holding the water hose, they started laughing and whispering something, and drove away.I turned my head to see his reaction, and I was surprised. Instead of being angry or shy, I see him smiling as if he did not care about his peers. He looks at me and says smiling, “You forgot to rub that big stain, right there.” 

I start smiling together with him and I feel happy for who he was become. When finishing, we get back inside and continue watching our TV series which we paused. Our father joins us in the afternoon. He looks tired from the work he has done at the yard all morning. 

Our mother joins him with a glass of wine and thy both start telling us how they first met, something we have memorized like a poem but don’t interrupt them. When I look around, I see relaxed people, a stronger bond than ever, warm hugs from grandparents, and I think to myself: “Maybe life in the time of Corona is not so bad…” 

As long as this mentality does not change, we will never achieve gender equality. 

Written by Amela Pejcinovic 

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“Gender equality and equal gender representation in all aspects is guaranteed by the law, which protects and promotes equality among genders and offers equal opportunities in all aspects of life. But in reality, things are different. Whether it is work outside or inside the house, gender inequality still exists. This is especially in housework, which according to boys and men are only for women. “ 

This shows that patriarchy still dominates, and men/boys are not willing to change themselves and do something worthy for them and their families. 

In the first volume of her “The Second Sex” book, Simone De Beauvoir presents facts and myths on gender and different gender perspectives. The book describes how some people when asked, “what is a woman?”, they reply, “woman is just a womb” and for some men they say, “the man is the absolute, whereas she is ‘the other’”.  

Similarly, in our families as well, the woman’/girl is treated a ‘the other’, as someone who should do the chores and never complain about anything. They should always obey their husband, father, or brother. They should obey any male in their family since patriarchy wants it to be this way. 

I watch how men in my family behave since morning and I don’t want to – I don’t dare to think that maybe me, my mother, or my grandmother are also ‘the other’ for them. But when it comes to housework, I notice that they up to a point agree with the mentality of the majority that housework is something only women and girls should do, and they should not involve in it. This makes me understand that gender equality is not as it should be! 

Even though I always try to divide work with my brothers, it’s always me who does most of the work since they use the work outside the house as a justification. They insist “it is harder than doing the housework”. 

Housework is the most essential thing when it comes to one’s way of living and it should be done no matter one’s gender. But the patriarchal system creates gender norms that set men and boys apart from this aspect of life. 

For men and boys, it is a pride not helping with the housework since they think their personality as males will look weaker. As long as this mentality does not change, we will never achieve gender equality. Housework does not recognize gender, and it has never done so before! 

“The outburst of the COVID-19 is a sign of how fragile and unpredictable life can be. 

Written by Aida Osmanaj, 

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“The division of labor within a family is important in defining positions of power, especially in the power of negotiation within the family. “ 

Since the COVID-19 crisis affects gender in various ways, measures taken to find solutions should take gender into consideration. No matter what situation humankind is in, it’s women who take the major part of the responsibility to keep the society together, be it at home, in healthcare, school, or taking care for the elderly. In most of countries, women do all this work with no pay. 

Starting from cooking and cleaning, up to taking care for children and the elderly, women do chores and unpaid labor three times as much as men do. While more and more people are remaining isolated at their houses to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, healthcare workers are having a stressful time. Even if women are helping children learn from the distance, supporting their relatives, or cooking food, cleaning, and taking care of our families, it is time for all of us to reflect and share the work. It is therefore important that each one of us do our part of the work at home to make it easier for women who are having extra burden of unpaid labor and everyday care. 

Social distancing means that home becomes a school for many families in the whole world.   Therefore, it is important to have conversations on gender equality with our family members, friends, and especially children – boys and girls. To many people around the world, the outburst of the COVID-19 is a sign of how fragile and unpredictable our life can be. This virus has changed the way many of us live, work, or finish essential life functions. 

As the youngest daughter in the family, I have noticed a lot of changes in the way women/girls and boys/men involve in doing the chores. My mom usually used to do all the work at home including cooking, cleaning, and managing other stuff at home. Usually each member of our family is busy doing several things, while my mom mostly does the chores. In these days when all families have been more united than ever before, it is the time to reflect how difficult it is to do the chores every day, and how difficult it is thinking about every single detail of maintaining the family and the keeping the house in order. 

In these difficult days, we have divided the work within the family. All of us work together in finishing the chores since each family member is aware how important it is sharing the work, and all of us know how much effort they seek and how much dedication one must show in maintaining the house and the family. Now that we have divided the work, my parents do the cooking while me and my brothers do the cleaning and take care of our garden. 

I am very happy since we are all engaged in the chores and have decided to keep it this way even when the pandemic is over.” 

This exercise is part of the project, “Men and Boys as Partners in Promoting Gender Equality and the Prevention of Youth Extremism and Violence in the Balkans”, implemented by CARE International Balkans in partnership with SIT (Centre for Counseling, Social Services and Research), and YMCA in Kosovo. 

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