Gender transformative, pro-poor, and inclusive COVID-19 response is necessary

This document was prepared and documented by the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc. (WLB) and four partner communities of WLB: (1) Ayta women in Cabangan, Zambales; (2) Post-Haiyan victim-survivors in Marabut, Samar; (3) Women farmers in Real, Nakar, Infanta, Quezon; and (4) Former overseas Filipino workers from Talisay, Negros Occidental. The period coverage of this report is from March 25- April 19, 2020.


On 16 March 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929 which declared the entire Philippines under a State of Calamity for six months and imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) throughout Luzon. The ECQ restricted movements of people except those working in essential services such as health, food, banking, and select government offices. They are allowed to work but are required to present identification cards when stepping out of their houses or traversing checkpoints and city boundaries, as proof that they are working in the exempted industries. Filipinos found to be violating the ECQ are apprehended by the police and penalized accordingly. The ECQ was initially scheduled to last until 13 April 2020 in Luzon but was extended until 15 May 2020. Alongside this announcement is the threat from the President himself to declare martial law should social distancing rules and other quarantine measures continue to be breached.

This update covers the period of 25 March up to 20 April 2020.  During this time, WLB was able to send direct assistance to the four communities after almost two weeks of lockdown. But issues confronting women, particularly marginalized groups, remain the same: 1) Women’s excessive “mental load++” which affects their mental health and wellness; (2) Women’s tendency to prioritize food expenses over their own personal hygiene expenses; (3) Rampant economic insecurity and multiple burden of women in the time of COVID-19; (4) Lack of information from the government on the local COVID-19 situation and response efforts of the local government unit (LGUs); (5) Limited access to government facilities and services due to the increasing number of COVID-19 patients; (6) Possible military harassment and threats of COVID-19 infection faced by women leaders acting as frontliners at the Barangay Level to help LGUs respond to COVID-19; and (7) Low reported cases of violence against women.[1]

For this report, WLB and its partner communities reached out to the following marginalized groups of women in the rural community: women with disability, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women, women migrant workers, indigenous women, peasant women, women fisherfolks, and girl children to surface and understand their situation. Although Talisay, Negros Occidental, and Marabut, Samar are both located in the island of Visayas, their local government units also subjected the two areas under ECQ.

  1. Enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine protocol is anti-poor, anti-rural, and anti-women 

    Stringent enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine is being enforced both in rural and urban areas. Military and police personnel are seen on the streets and even in narrow alleys in the rural and urban areas including at the barangay (village) level. The health crisis is seen by the administration as a security problem foremost, as opposed to being primarily a public health emergency, leading to the deployment of more military personnel and apprehension of violators of the ECQ (with cruel punishments being imposed oftentimes, even by the Barangay Captain, to shame them). In a report issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID), over 130,000 had violated the Luzon-wide ECQ and out of these numbers, 30,000 was arrested solely in Luzon by the police.[2] Moreover, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is requesting the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to coordinate with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to facilitate the filing of cases against violators and ensure that electronic inquests are available.[3] Following Duterte’s recent threat of a “Martial Law”-like community quarantine, the PNP Chief further articulated that they will now enforce “a strict enhanced community quarantine and that there will be no more warning for violators and [they] would directly apprehend any violators of lockdown protocols.”[4]
    This scenario in the metropolis is not far from what rural communities are experiencing. With these declarations, poor families in rural areas were restricted in movement, with only one person allowed to go out either to buy or take care of essential requirements for their respective households. In rare cases, there are families who are allowed to go out of their homes once a week. Most of them earned their living either through farming, fishing, or selling. Poor families live on a daily wage basis and, instead of savings, they have accumulated debts that are only paid after harvest season or a successful catch.With the imposition of the ECQ, poor families are pushed further into extreme poverty, which is then exacerbated by the limited support from the national government. During the first week of the ECQ implementation, the national government had carelessly given the responsibility of responding to COVID-19 wholly to the LGUs, as the initial pronouncements were without clear implementing guidelines. Resolving the problem thus entirely depends on the ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness of the LGU as they are forced to shoulder the burden of addressing the COVID-19 problem in their locality.Unfortunately, most of the partner communities belong to a fourth or fifth class municipality/city. The peasants, fisherfolks, and indigenous peoples living in communities in the Quezon province, although considered as first-class municipalities, remain poor because majority are seasonal or informal workers and do not have their own land or boat or a fixed income.  Moreover, these LGUs do not have enough resources to support the needs of the poor people in their respective areas. Without a clear national plan, LGUs are responding to the problem on their own.In Infanta, Quezon, ECQ has become stricter due to a recently confirmed positive COVID case in the area. The market which the person went to was suddenly closed for two consecutive days for disinfection. Passes were limited only to one per household until April 30. But as usual, those close to barangay officials were able to get additional passes. The limited distribution of quarantine passes has brought additional problems and stress to households, primarily to women, because they do not have cash to buy everything for the whole duration of the quarantine in one single stroke. Even before the crisis, cash had never been easy in these communities. Now with the rare possibility of paid economic activity in these communities, cash has become much harder to acquire.So, the questions of most households to barangay officials are: How are we supposed to live until April 30? What will happen to poor families if the ECQ will be extended and relief support remains scarce?  Many rural families remain uncertain about (or: Many rural families fear that they will be unable to sustain…) how long they will be able to sustain themselves during the ECQ because: (1) relief was given only once for some localities; (2) many worked in informal economy or on a daily wage basis (construction workers, salespersons, fast food workers, vendors/peddlers) and have thus been jobless since the quarantine; and (3) there were people who were relieved from their jobs. According to some women leaders, some barangay officials are more concerned about the enforcement of lockdown than about the survival of the communities.

    Before COVID, women were already having difficulty budgeting the meager take-home pay of their husbands. Now, the situation worsened because there is nothing to budget but the need has become bigger – the members of the family are all staying at home, which means: more water and electric consumption, frequent hunger, and more clothes and dishes to wash. How are they going to survive without income and by relying only on the government’s promised assistance? Both the local and national governments’ promised assistance are uncertain, not to mention selective and targeted.

    Women lamented that though families stay at home, they have nothing to eat. Even if they would like to push their husbands to assist with household chores, they refrain from doing so because it may only end up in quarrels due to miscommunication or the lack of understanding of their husbands on the assigned chores. Women are hence forced to do the work at home, plus look for food or money outside their homes too.

    Aside from the burden of feeding the family, work at home has become more burdensome, especially with children who love to go out and play. It has caused additional headache and mental stress to mothers. While most mothers recognize that it is natural for children to play outside, they worry that their children might get infected with COVID-19 and possibly violate the quarantine policy of the LGU. Most women are also worried that they will get pregnant because their husband is always at home, doing almost nothing. Family planning services are scarce, and some women cannot avail of them because most health workers at the barangay level are so busy acting as frontliners for COVID-19 that they forget their other services, which include reproductive and health services.

    These scenarios are further aggravated by the militaristic response of the Duterte administration.  In fact, the government has continuously blamed the poor for going outside their homes – mostly because they are looking for food or cash to borrow – and attributed these actions to the increasing numbers of COVID-19 in the Philippines. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque showed that the government is out-of-touch with this reality when he blamed the Filipinos, by calling them “pasaway” or stubborn, for the Philippines’ current standing as the leading country among ASEAN nations to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases.[5]  Roque failed to realize that the lack of concrete programs and effective response to COVID-19, particularly to poor families, are the reasons why the response to COVID-19 is failing. Moreover, this administration seems to concentrate its efforts on anti-insurgency which was also used by the president as an excuse to declare martial law, instead of focusing on anti-COVID response.

    The Duterte administration’s strategy of changing the narratives – from state inefficiency and lack of appropriate, concrete, and gender responsive programs, to the Filipinos’ supposed lack of discipline that resulted in the increasing number of  confirmed COVID-19 cases – effectively shifts blame from the government for its failure to adequately address the pandemic in the country. It is a clear reflection of how deeply entrenched the culture of impunity is in Philippine society.

  2. Survival of the fittest is the game: Pushing women to make both ends meet
    Being forced to borrow money or ask for loans from various lending institutions to survive the crisis adds to women’s existing mental load. Women lament that the ECQ has stopped almost all forms of economic activities in their areas, but payables to various micro-financing institutions continue.Now, women are bombarded with a lot of questions such as: Where are they going to get money to pay these credit institutions? After the crisis, who will help them? Does the government (LGU and national) have any plans to help them?Thus, rural women are left with no choice but to continue to manage their own homes without cash.  In Quezon, women in the communities survive either through the help of other women, sharing their relief and harvesting anything available from the backyard, like sweet potato, banana, and vegetables. However, because most of these vegetables have been harvested nearly everyday, they are left with nearly no available resources now.On the other hand, local community women who used to receive remittances from their family members working as overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have resorted to backyard gardening (given that they had the knowledge or space for it).  In Talisay, Negros Occidental, the weather is so hot that only selected vegetables can thrive, let alone grow.  Most of the members of OFW Women’s Association live within the city proper, thereby leaving them with no space for gardening.

    In Samar, coincidentally, it is harvest season for rice that is why some families engage in farming for daily subsistence, with kamote or sweet potato as one of the staples. Some have started gardening outside their home to supplement their needs in the coming months after the ECQ, with seeds they acquired from the Department of Agriculture. Some families borrow land (rent-free) to plant vegetables and crops, while others (both men and women) participate in “cash for work” activities (Php300/day) such as clearing weeds and wild plants in farms or transporting sacks of harvested rice (done by men only). Some fish vendors give their surplus fish to families they know or when they had a good sale in Kuwait Village[6]. This has been the practice of some women’s groups ever since a checkpoint at the entrance of Kuwait Village was set up. Fish vendors who are not residents of Kuwait Village are not allowed inside; as concession, women leaders instead inform the residents that they can buy fish from their entrance gate.

    Many families are in the farms in the mountains, especially those who lost their jobs in Tacloban and Manila. There is fear over the virus but at the same time, because of their location, they feel that the threat is far from them. However, the anxiety over its repercussions and feelings of helplessness seem to be prolonged especially knowing that the whole country and the world are experiencing, in varying degrees, the negative impacts brought by this pandemic.

    As always, women have taken it upon themselves to think of ways to feed their family everyday: vending, borrowing money, begging for help, looking for any work or products to sell. Above this, women are ready to sacrifice their needs for their family (children, grandchildren, and husband) whose survival is more important than their own.

    What is certain is the uncertainty of their survival and future. But women continue to fight for their daily survival – for their children and for their family.

  3. Relief efforts remain gender-neutral and scarce
    Most of the partner communities received relief packages from the barangay or the municipal, city, and provincial government. However, the release of these relief packages is irregular and not on a weekly basis. On the other hand, the 4Ps (conditional cash transfers) beneficiaries have already received money additional money (assumed to partly come from the Social Amelioration Program).Unfortunately, not all barangays have received relief packages. According to women leaders in Samar, no relief has been distributed by Barangay Legaspi in Marabut (they already received rice from the province and LGU). According to the barangay, they will give relief when the people have run out of options. Also, distribution seems to be unequal as all households receive the same amount even if there are households with 2-3 families, or more family members. Relief received from the government is deemed as not enough.There are also cases in some barangays where only a selected few are given relief packages. In fact, a woman leader in Quezon said that she has not received any relief from the barangay since the ECQ.  She eventually decided to call up the barangay captains whom she knows and ask for assistance.  While she was given food assistance in the end, acquiring it was very difficult.Moreover, relief packages contained canned goods but not the basic needs of women/mothers such as infant formula for children (giving formula milk is prohibited under the Milk Code), nutritious food for pregnant or lactating mothers, sanitary napkins, contraceptives, etc.  Despite the Philippines’ long-time experience in responding to disasters, relief packages remain scarce, as well as gender-blind and unresponsive to the needs of the people.

    The women are hoping to receive more, if not adequate, assistance to get through this difficult situation. A woman leader from Samar acted on the problem of inefficiency in distributing relief goods in their barangay by giving the barangay an updated list of households and openly airing out their grievances as women community leaders. Some barangay officials responded to the complaints.

    These experiences of women only reflect the difficulties of women and their families in accessing support from government. In addition, the services remain to be unresponsive to the needs of women and their families.  Despite the passage of numerous progressive laws towards promoting gender equality, national government programs are at a loss on how to translate the meaning of gender-responsive programming into reality.

    Unfortunately, gender neutrality or blindness is a systemic problem in Philippine society. This problem will continue to persist unless there is a transformative shift in the government’s framework to systematically address the structural problems such as the macho culture and problems inherent in a patriarchal society.

    To augment the needs of communities at the local level, women’s organizations like WLB are responding and providing direct assistance to its partner communities.

  4. Continuing invisibility of marginalized sectors during COVID-19
    Women and girls are not homogenous. They have different contexts and needs. Unfortunately, even before COVID-19, data has not been disaggregated by either sex or sectoral concerns. This is one of the main problems why government’s response continues to be gender-blind and lacking context-specific measures for women and girls.4.1 Elderly women, LBT women (Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women), and women with disability
    COVID-19 makes the elderly and with those pre-existing conditions more vulnerable. Under the ECQ, the elderly and persons with disability are discouraged from leaving their houses because they can easily get infected with the virus.According to elderly women in rural areas, this is a big problem especially for those with sick husbands because they need to go out and buy medicine. The same challenge is also experienced by elderly women taking care of their grandchildren. In response to this concern, the LGU instructed the elderly and PWDs to send other people on errands or wait until the LGU assistance comes. But as mentioned, LGU assistance is erratic and does not come on a regular basis.

    One PWD woman leader lamented the exclusion of PWDs in the amelioration program because not all PWDs are 4Ps members. Their barangay prioritizes only 4Ps members and those in the master list. Because of COVID-19, disadvantaged sectors like the PWDs, senior citizens, solo parents, LGBT persons, and marginalized women in general are rendered more invisible. Their unique individual contexts are overlooked because the government only sees families and households in its social amelioration program (SAP).

    In other communities, these are the problems with regard to availing of the SAP:

    • A woman leader has a daughter who is a solo parent, has a disability, and works at a restaurant (earns Php375/day) but is not a member of any government welfare programs (has only a PWD ID). She worries that her daughter will not be deemed eligible under SAP.
    • Some senior citizens have not received social pensions.
      – One had applied for social pension way back in 2015. When she followed it up this month (April 2020), she was told that her application may not be processed as DSWD still has a lot of backlogs (which may be exacerbated now that SAP is a priority).
      – There are 11 senior citizens from Valladolid – municipality that is an hour away from Talisay City, Negros Occidental – who had not received their social pensions since the last quarter of 2019 (each was supposed to receive Php450/quarter). They followed it up in March 2020 but they were told that they were missing from the list. This means that they are also missing from the list of possible beneficiaries under SAP. The Valladolid mayor is always absent from the office whenever they go to air out their grievance vis- à -vis their delisting and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO)’s insensitive behavior towards them.
      – Senior citizens in Marabut, Samar have also not received their social pensions for two years. When asked about this by one of the community leaders, the barangay captain said that the pensions will be rolled out with the SAP. However, this still needs monitoring.

    There are no reports or data on discrimination against LBT women. Either the communities are not aware of the issue or the persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE) are not reporting to the authorities. Having no data is problematic because it makes the issues of the abovementioned marginalized sectors invisible.

    The commonality among the stories of these women is that they are invisible in the existing data bank. Their problems as elderly women and women with disability or diverse SOGIE are neither properly documented nor recognized by the government. This is the reason why their issues remain hidden in the communities. It would require deeper discussions with the abovementioned groups of women to properly document their issues.

    4.2 Women migrant workers (WMW)

    Stranded WMWs in their home provinces find it hard to find alternative sources of income due to the lockdown. They resort instead to getting loans. But they are getting restless already; from the start of the lockdown in March and until the present, they still have no information as to how they can avail of the assistance of the government – whether LGU or national government agencies.

    Apparently, they were not deemed qualified for the social amelioration program of the government. They understand that the priority of SAP is the poorest of the poor; but they state that it should not be at the expense of excluding other social groups who also disproportionately bear the brunt of the pandemic. A stranded woman migrant worker in Talisay City lamented that in this pandemic, their concrete houses cannot fill in their hunger pangs. As of the second week of April, they were still uninformed of the DOLE-AKAP for OFWs program (which is a cash assistance amounting to Php10K) and unsure if they are qualified.

     A WMW opined that domestic workers stranded in Saudi Arabia are in a much better position because, at least, those women can still send money to their families in the Philippines. Meanwhile, returning OFWs who are categorized as Persons under Monitoring (PUM) did not receive emergency aid while in self-quarantine (unless they live in a resource-rich barangay).

    A former migrant worker hoped that the DSWD would personally evaluate the situation of families and not base their assessment on who lives in big houses or subdivisions. After all, not all OFWs are white-collar workers like  doctors or nurses; majority are still working in elementary occupations, including care work.

    Most families who have former or current OFW members are unclear as to who will be eligible for the assistance: Will this include long-time OFW returnees who are still struggling, or just those who have been laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19 and those who were stranded in the Philippines due to the lockdown? There was also an announcement by OWWA saying that assistance will be available after the ECQ. But an advisory was issued on the social media page of OWWA Bacolod Satellite regarding the DOLE-AKAP for OFWs program which indicates that application for the financial assistance can now be made. However, based on comments on the said post, the online portal does not seem to work.

    There are WMWs working as airport employees who have been laid off,  stranded and affected by lockdown protocols in the UAE. All of them, are currently staying in company-provided accommodations (women have separate accommodations from men), where a convenience store is strategically located on the lower level. However, they are unsure when the free accommodations will last. According to the community leader sharing this story, the stranded OFWs are more afraid of the punishment for violating quarantine protocols (a fine of 500K-1M dirham and a 5-year jail time) than the COVID-19 itself. Others cannot send remittance (no work, no pay due to the lockdown) to their families back in Talisay City.

    Lack of reliable information on how to get support from the Philippine government in times of COVID, is the biggest challenge faced by migrant workers in general. An efficient referral system seems to not be working during normal times and it is made more challenging in times of crisis. Some WMWs even complained that hotline numbers provided to them are not working. The WMWs surmise that no one is able to answer the phone from the Philippine Embassy or Consulate Office because so many Filipinos are asking for help.

    WLB was able to facilitate delivery of relief packages to some Filipino women migrant workers in Dubai by calling fellow NGOs and networks in the Philippines.

    4.3 Pregnant and lactating women
    In Infanta, Quezon, an eight-month pregnant woman perseveres in going out to sell her neighbor’s produce (vegetables and fish) to earn commission and also tries to do other forms of work like doing her neighbor’s laundry. She continues doing these kinds of work against her doctor’s advice because she is more scared that her family will die due to starvation.

    In another case, a mother who has just given birth was unable to produce milk for her newborn baby because of the stress brought about by COVID-19 and lack of money to buy nutritious food.  Unfortunately, aside from having no cash to buy food, she also cannot purchase vitamins, rubbing alcohol, and soap for her child, including infant formula milk. She only got help from her relatives who gave her rice and P200.00 assistance.

    Furthermore, barangay health workers (BHWs) are faced with the problem of accessing health care facilities during ECQ. Prior to the pandemic, the Department of Health (DOH) has discouraged pregnant women, particularly those living in far flung areas, from giving birth at home.  BHWs are assisting pregnant women from Marabut to Basey (which takes about 20-30 minutes of travel) even if the woman had already given birth at her home, just so the umbilical cord can be cut at the hospital and a doctor can thereafter attend to the mother and the baby. BHWs are required to obtain travel passes from their municipality so that they can be allowed to enter Basey.

    Some policies imposed at the national level are urban-centric and do not look into the distinct context of rural areas which have issues when it comes to accessibility and availability of resources.

    With support from friends of WLB, it was able to provide support for women with children in Tumana, Marikina.

    4.4 Girl children
    Women are in a difficult situation. While they don’t like seeing their children hungry, finding ways how to earn at least for daily survival these days is rather challenging. Even if women are very willing to do any paid work, they cannot do much because movements are restricted. If they are fortunate enough to be given laundry or called to weed, they in turn are not paid justly. The meager pay is insufficient because prices of basic commodities have soared. Even selling has become a struggle because people in the communities do not have money to buy commodities.

    Older children seem to have understood the gravity of the situation and that they have to adjust. Even if some could be seen loitering, most are in their home. However, they are also left wondering how long this would last and when they are allowed to go out. Some teenagers (usually males) go outside and play their sport (pigeon flying), while no girls are seen outside loitering because they are probably busy with their phones. Girl children are seen fetching water or accompanying their families in farms. However, women admit that there is not much knowledge yet on the situation of children/girl children in the context of COVID-19.

    On the other hand, younger children cry to their mothers due to lack of food. It tears the mothers’ hearts whenever they see their children crying; they cannot even give them biscuits to eat. It pains mothers more to see their children looking at stores but they cannot buy anything, or to see others eating, yet their children are starving. It also pains mothers to feed their children with food not age-appropriate, especially when their children are still very young.

    In some Barangays, teenagers have been caught violating curfew hours and were brought to the police station for counselling.

    In general, most communities are not that knowledgeable about the issues faced by children, especially girl children. The reason for the lack of data provided by women leaders is partly because the children are in their homes, and partly because women may still lack perspective on issues confronting children, particularly now that they are faced with so many challenges due to COVID-19.

    Education for poor children will be problematic should the ECQ remain in place even when the school year starts in June 2020. Learning through the use of technology will be difficult for poor children because most of them have no or unreliable internet connection. Some do not even own smartphones not to mention personal computers or laptops for online learning or research.

  5. Cases of VAWG, harassment, and discrimination are less prioritized during the crisis
    Cases of violence against women and girls are further under-reported due to the crisis. Women are at a loss as to which agency will they report incidents, especially now when not all government offices are open.Some women have not been given a barangay protection order (BPO) or had difficulty applying for a temporary protection order (TPO) due to closure of courts and unclear guidelines on how to apply for such relief during ECQ.The following are different stories of VAWG, harassment, and discrimination experienced by women in the four rural areas and in Marikina City.One WMW returned home to Talisay City prior to the lockdown because her husband raped her oldest daughter (age unknown to the woman leader who shared the story). The husband is now in jail serving his sentence for rape. But just as the WMW decided to return to work abroad (she already bought her ticket), the ECQ in Talisay City took effect. Her loss of income worsened the situation and lowered the morale of the family.

    A former migrant experienced continuing verbal, physical, and psychological abuse (i.e. cheating) by her intimate partner.

    Stories have been told of women being seen going to vacant lots at night during the ECQ. One case involved a young girl who was “caught in the act” with an older man. The community in Quezon which shared this case did not confirm if this was a case of prostitution.

    Due to strict implementation of the curfew in Tumana, Marikina City, one woman leader has been on the receiving end of various forms of discrimination, not only from men but sometimes from women and children as well. She was cussed at, threatened, and disparaged by violators of quarantine protocols. While she is at times affected by these incidents, she does not let it get in the way of her duties.  She patiently explains to the curfew violators the rationale behind its strict implementation (i.e. to mitigate the spread of disease in Tumana).

    In Cabangan, Zambales, an indigenous woman leader experienced verbal abuse from her husband after attending a meeting on relief operations. The other women leaders who witnessed the incident reprimanded and counselled the husband regarding the abuse he did. When asked about her situation, the IP woman leader told her fellow women leaders that she is alright after the incident. However, her situation needs to be closely monitored since the abuse is recurring.

    Unfortunately, during ECQ women rarely tried to access justice due to compounded problems (availability of shelter, transportation, and communication; questions on who to contact when reporting any form of violence, whether to leave their children or not, should they endure the violence or is it safer to go out, etc.) that they experienced.  In cases when they try to access justice, women are silenced because the structures are seemingly not working and the system is failing them, too.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The above information gathered by WLB in partnership with women in communities is a grave example of both the effects of a pandemic to women, and the failure of the government to respond to the needs of women in different sectors.

The problem with gender neutrality and blindness in Philippine policies, programs, and responses, is that it is systemic. It is deeply ingrained in our structures, norms, beliefs, relations, and systems. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis only aggravated the existing discrimination, violence, and inaccessible and inefficient criminal justice system. The culture of impunity remains evident, if not highlighted even more, as the national government fails to efficiently and comprehensively take action during this public health emergency.

A transformative approach is necessary, and daresay inevitable, in addressing inequalities that had persisted for years with or without a crisis.  A general, non-specific, non-inclusive approach to addressing COVID-19 will not work because there are specific contexts and distinct experiences that must be considered in planning and budgeting. 

The Philippine government should make use of this crisis as an opportunity to start collecting data from the communities to better address their issues and, eventually, other systemic problems. The Philippine government must stop from weaponizing COVID-19 to instill fear and violence in the communities.

The pandemic has exposed that there is a “new normal,” so “business as usual” approaches or responses will no longer work.

There is a continuing practical need from communities that demand gender responsive relief packages and support systems. CSOs and feminist groups must continue to expose the disproportionate impact of this crisis on women and girls and how the latter respond, negotiate, and rise above the situation.

Thus, with or without a crisis, women and girls must not be silenced. Women and girls should be free from any forms of subordination, oppression, inequalities, violence, and discrimination. #

[1] Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, March 2020. COVID Crisis is not gender-neutral.

[2] Wakefield, F. (2020). ‘130,000 violated ECQ – IATF.’ Daily Tribune, 22 April. Available at: (Accessed on 23 April 2020)

[3] Recuenco, A. (2020) ‘Curfew violators soar to 42,000, – e-inquest activated.’ Manila Bulletin, 29 March. Available at: ’ (Accessed on 23 April 2020).

[4] Luna, F. (2020). ‘No more warning before arrest under ’tighter’ ECQ as PNP leads contact tracing.’ PhilStar, 21 April. Available at: (Accessed on 23 April 2020)

[5] Coconuts Manila. (2020). ‘It’s your fault: Spokesman Harry Roque blames ‘stubborn’ Filipinos for rise in COVID-19 cases. Yahoo! News, 16 April. Available at: (Accessed on 23 April 2020)

[6] The Kuwait Red Crescent Society constructed 297 housing units in Sawere constructed and named  Kuwait Humanitarian Village in Marabut after typhoon Haiyan. Most of the families living there are those who lost their homes during typhoon Haiyan.