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Still a wide room for improvement in women empowerment

“Although the Philippines still has rooms for improvement in addressing issues concerning women, it is by-far a great place to become a woman.” This assessment, made by the Asia Society, is an auspicious commentary on the extent and scope of women empowerment in the country.

Across a broad spectrum of concerns, the country passes muster but more work still needs to be done.

In the political sphere, two women presidents have led the country in 15 out of the 34 years that the 1987 Constitution has been in force. A significant number of women have been elected as senators, members of the House of

Representatives, provincial governors, city and municipal mayors and even as barangay chairpersons. But women advocates argue for even greater participation that would be proportionate to their share of the country’s total population.

In the field of justice, while the Philippines has enacted laws that protect women, advocates also point out the need for more effective implementation. It has been noted that the incidence of domestic violence has escalated during the pandemic. Moreover, policies on prostitution and media exploitation of women also need to be upgraded for heightened efficacy.

Our Education Secretary personifies the eminent role played by women in the shaping the hearts and minds of Filipino children and youth. During the pandemic, mothers have also assumed a more important role with the implementation of distance and blended learning. Girls also have higher enrolment and completion rates, underlining the room for improvement in attaining gender-equal education opportunities.

More broadly, there are key issues that compel heightened attention. Recent studies point out that around ten million Filipino women still live in poverty; especially vulnerable are rural and indigenous women. In the field of labor, ILO studies show that majority of women continue to experience difficulty in obtaining gainful employment, in sharp contrast to their male counterparts. Higher wages are also paid to male agricultural workers. It is suggested that more work needs to be done to achieve “gender integration” in the trade union movement.

President Duterte said in his Women’s Day statement that his government has done what is needed to ensure that women’s rights are respected.

For her part, Vice President Leni Robredo pointed out: “We need to band together to continue the work. We need as many women and allies as possible banging against the glass ceiling and creating spaces where all genders can flourish and contribute to society.”

Solidarity and unity are keys to meaningful and impactful women empowerment.

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