Have you ever heard about the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? They are the essence of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN members states in 2015, and they aim to unite all countries to solve global issues like poverty, people without access to education and proper health system, inequality, climate change, and destruction of biodiversity.
The fifth SDG is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. However, due to the pandemic, this goal is facing new challenges to be successfully achieved. Recently, I rewatched the South-Korean movie “Kim Ji Young Born in 1982” (2019) and it made me think about these hardships faced by women in our society, which have gotten worse after covid-19. The film, directed by Kim Do Young, tells us Kim Ji Young’s dilemmas and struggles after having her first daughter: the barriers to getting back to work, her lack of time to herself, and the non-empathetic eyes of others regarding her situation.
Firstly, inequality in the work environment has always been a problem for women: they often take longer to get promoted than men, their salary is lower than men’s in the same position, and people often don’t give credit to women’s work or don’t believe in their potential. However, when women give birth and become mothers, the situation worsens off given their need to dedicate more of their time to the child than to themselves or work.
On account of multiple demands of motherhood, their productivity reduces. Unfortunately, part of our society still deals with the situation using an inhuman approach. Companies don’t embrace women’s hardships when bosses expect the same level of activity they had while they didn’t have a baby to take care of. Also, they rarely offer psychological or material support, such as a bonus to childcare or childcare facilities, so they can go through this process more easily. Rather, they dismiss women or only promote men to higher positions already assuming women will have babies and stop doing their job fully.
This situation is pictured very sensibly in the movie: Kim Ji Young puts a big effort into her work and deserves a promotion, however, due to her getting married recently and possibly becoming a mother soon, a man takes her place. Also, as she has no support at home, it is impossible for her to get back to her job after she gave birth to her daughter. This whole situation affects Kim Ji Young’s mental health and self-esteem: she starts questioning why she studied so hard if the job market’s doors would be closed to her after becoming a mom.
Our sad world pandemic context accentuated the difficulties of women’s work conditions. Due to health security measures, children are not going to school and a significant number of parents are doing home office. People might think it is easier to take care of a child in these conditions, but having to deal with children’s great energy and their constant needs for attention at home while having the necessary calm and focus to work is not an easy task.
However, a non-understanding boss can believe that a mother working from home has more time to work, overburdening her with more things to do, and thus play a role to aggravate women’s mental and physical health. According to the UN’s “Division for SDGs” website, women bear additional household burdens during the pandemic. On top of that, women, who are in a vulnerable economic situation and must work at any cost so they can provide basic survival conditions to their family, are probably facing unimaginable challenges to take care of their children that can’t go to school.
Another issue shown in the movie is the abdication of self-cares by women when they have a baby and enter their partner’s family. Kim Ji Young does not have the time to do anything she enjoys, like writing, and family members think it is absurd that her husband takes care of their daughter so that she can do something for herself. Indeed, this situation must be worse in the pandemic context: throughout the overburden of work, motherhood, and housework tasks, women are unable to rest and have a self-care routine. This is a huge problem when quarantine and social distancing require more attention to our mental health and well-being.
The movie displays a series of other hardships women face in our society, like having their privacy and human rights violated, being neglected by their father on account of him only paying attention to their son’s needs, suffering sexual harassment at work or public spaces, and not being heard by society or by their love partners.
Sorrowfully, these situations keep happening and increased due to covid-19: according to the UN’s “Division for SDGs” website, lockdowns made the rates of domestic violence against women in some countries increase by 30%.
Evidently, all of those issues must continue being discussed by our community to tackle these situations happening in our daily lives. “Kim Ji Young Born in 1982” is an excellent movie to start or stimulate this crucial dialogue.
To sum up, it is important to be wary and sensitive to challenges faced by women in our society and fight against gender inequality, especially in hard times like the covid-19 pandemic, so we can seek solutions and still be able to achieve the fifth sustainable development goal, empowering all women and girls.
Júlia dos Santos Acerbi