Gender inequality and patriarchy in the Cordilleras: a fact? Or a myth?
In my earlier days as a community organizer, one of the debates we used to explore was the topic of patriarchy in the Cordilleras. Since the indigenous communities were not fully integrated into the patriarchal colonial system, did this necessarily mean that patriarchy and sexism did not exist?
This was the question that working with the communities helped answer. Closely working with indigenous community members revealed that though there was no patriarchy in the Cordilleras, what did exist were distinct roles and images assigned to men and women which they were expected to follow.
These roles and images find their expression in the sharing or division of labor. These, too, influence the delineation of tasks--be it reproductive, productive or community. Furthermore, division/sharing of labor are patterned by the prevailing system of production or the economy of the area. The system of production defines the division/sharing of labor or the interplay of roles between men and women. Production h as become the dominion of men while reproduction has become the primary function of women.
In communities where gender roles are rigid, the sharper the gender division is, the lower status accorded to women. Status however is not just the social position of women.
However, gender roles may change to respond or to adapt to prevailing economic conditions or changing cultural times.
A concrete example of this would be the barangay of Lengaoan, located along Halsema Highway, in the municipality of Buguias, a farming community which produces commercial vegetables, such as potatoes, cabbages, beans, wombok (Chinese cabbage) and carrots. The community illustrates that patriarchy does not exist in the Cordilleras
Vegetable gardening is labor-intensive and time demanding Thus, work and time control the vegetable farmer. The many work processes rob the farmers of their only resource--time. Time is a luxury they cannot squander on rest and recreation.
During the Gender Sensitivity Training in Lengaoan, a workshop showed that the production tasks of men and women almost look the same.
Another workshop revolved around reproduction tasks. The results indicate that while women bear the brunt of the responsibility, the men of Lengaoan do contribute their share. Some men mentioned helping out in the cooking when wives are busy or they take the tasks fully when wives are incapable such as during giving birth, sickness or travel. Women described their tasks as "automatic" and "expected". On a supper table, everybody stands up after eating while women automatically stay behind to clear the table
In Lengaoan, men and women at first stated that reproductive functions are shared by both men and women. When probed further however, their answers point to a division of tasks. As their workshop reveals, reproduction is the domain of women. There is, however, participation from the men, just like when the wife gives birth, husbands do the domestic chores.
Similarly, in the productive functions, there are tasks expected of women that men can only do when women are not around. Weeding, harvesting, planting are tasks women do specifically. Hauling, irrigating (with a pump) and spraying are tasks men specifically do. However, these functions are being revolutionized. Women are now spraying and hauling also, but these are only a few of the functions that women are starting to take. This is mainly because the demand for cash in the family forces the women to also do production tasks. Since the price of farm inputs continue to rise while the cost of vegetable produce remains low if not lower, women take most of the brunt of the situation and thus need to augment the family income.
As some women share, sleeping hours are not fully spent for sleep, half of it is spent thinking where the cupful of rice will come from. In vegetable producing areas like Lengaoan, worrying about where to obtain loans takes up most of women's time. The capital intensive character of commercial vegetable farming eats up the household budget. Most need loans to buy the chemical inputs needed in their farms.
In conclusion, the system of production defines the division/sharing of labor or the interplay of roles between men and women. In Lengaoan where capitalist farming is intensively practiced, production has equalled reproduction in women's performance of their tasks which has increased their chances of being exposed to chemicals, labor-intensive farm-work and the need for cash to meet high-intensive demand of farm inputs.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 2003|
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