Saturday, March 08, 2008

What a woman can expect

THE CAT is at it again.

From my desk, I espy the white cat sleeping on its perch: a pot of flowers with maroon petals.

Later, I see the cat has transferred. It is now napping on a pot of herbs.

Of all the cats that treat our place as a half-way home and diner, this white cat alone sleeps so unusually. Perhaps it thinks it is a plant, improved a little by way of four feet for hopping from pot to pot.

For a while, I thought the vegecat was a “he” until I saw it being sniffed at and then tailed by an orange Tom. Although I can’t be sure, the din he makes around her has me convinced that the white cat beds in a pot because there is no space for him to join her.

If I were reincarnated as a cat and had to bear a litter three or four times a year, I might also pretend to be a potted herb.

Reproduction and survival of the species inevitably came to mind last March 8, observed as International Women’s Day (IWD). When a male friend sent me an early morning text greeting, I was befuddled at first. Then I thought of my sons and wondered what I had, if at all, contributed in making them to be better, more empathetic and truer friends and partners of women.

More than two centuries of observance of IWD seems to counter Sigmund Freud’s theory that “biology is destiny.” Yet, typically, every IWD commemoration is accompanied by findings that the survival of future generations rests on the promotion of the quality of women’s life.

Investing in mothers is the only way to ensure children’s survival and well-being, points out the “State of the World’s Mothers 2006,” a report produced by Save the Children.

This US-based humanitarian organization releases with its annual report a Mothers’ Index, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother and a child. According to the 2006 report, Sweden led other countries in Europe and Northern America as the best places to be a mother. Somalia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa were at the bottom of the ranking of 125 countries.

The Save the Children highlighted that education and access to health care, specially family planning services, are factors that guarantee women survive child birth and their children live beyond the first month or year of their life.

In the Mothers’ Index 2006, the Philippines fell in the median. Improvements in the typical Filipina’s life-cycles were predicted, though, by a 1974 University of the Philippines (UP) Population Institute study that found life expectancy improved dramatically: in 1900, a Pinay was expected to live to the age of 25; in 1960, it was 52.5; and in 2000, it is expected to be 67.5.

The chances of the Filipina and her husband surviving to old age have thus risen. According to a March 7, 2008 Inquirer Research item, women in Central Luzon have the highest life expectancy (74.42 years) in the country, with those in Eastern Visayas having the lowest (69.79).

The same UP study found that infant rearing will be delayed and shortened substantially by 2000. “A woman's first grandchild arrived around age 39 in 1900, around age 42 in 1960, and will not arrive until about age 50 in 2000.”

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), women also live longer. Life expectancy is estimated at 72.2 years for Filipino women and 66.9 years for Filipino men.

It has been noted in the 2000 population census that around 76 percent of the 2.6 million widowed persons were females and only 24 percent were males. Explanations forwarded for this is that Filipinos generally pass away before their wives while Filipinas are less inclined than their male counterparts to remarry after the death of their spouse.

In the NSO’s Family Planning Survey of 2001, nearly half of married Filipinas (49.8 percent) used contraceptives.

This survey of figures convinces me that, at least in this life, women in this country will not have to take to the pot. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 9, 2008 issue

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