The journey of Filipino women towards attaining gender equality and empowerment has been moving forward over the years. Filipinas have emerged as strong, confident and smart individuals who are able to assert their rights and place in society. We now also have male advocates who champion gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
The empowerment of women did not take place overnight. Filipino women from women’s human rights and civil society organizations, the private sector, academe and key government agencies have been passionately devoting their time, talent and resources for the advancement of women. After several decades, these efforts are paying off in terms of progressive women-related laws and policies. We are thankful for the trailblazing work of the larger women’s movement for advancing women’s rights that we now enjoy.
Yet, despite the gains, there appears to be a growing trend towards conservatism that seem to normalize misogyny and sexism worldwide. The major strides that we achieved are countered by the re-emergence of a culture that perpetuates biases, discrimination and violence against women. Practices like victim blaming, double standards, and commodification of women’s bodies still prevail.
We cannot allow a culture of patriarchy and toxic masculinity dictate our future and set aside the gains of the women’s movement. Likewise, we cannot use women’s strength and resilience as an excuse not to care for and address their needs.
As we celebrate National Women’s Month, we continue to call on everyone to make change work for women. Let us work for a society where women and girls are empowered to claim their rights; and where men and boys treat them with dignity and respect.
We call on all government agencies at the national and local levels to move beyond mere compliance with the Gender and Development (GAD) budget policy, and implement more substantive and meaningful programs, providing basic social services and economic opportunities of women.
Amidst the threats of climate change, human-induced conflicts, and the ill effects of globalization, safety nets for marginalized women should be made available and accessible. We need to increase women’s presence in key decision-making bodies of the government towards 50-50 equity. Laws such as the Magna Carta of women, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, and those that address violence against women should be implemented and monitored. Programs that address the persistent poverty of rural women should be strengthened. Efforts should be made to put a stop to gender stereotyping, sexism in language, and the commodification of women’s bodies in mass media, entertainment, advertisements, teaching materials, and cyberspace.
“Malasakit, pagbabago, at patuloy na pag-unlad” necessitates ensuring that both women and men equally contribute to and benefit from development. Only through the active participation of women and girls contributing to change and being included in development can we move towards attaining AmBisyon Natin 2040 of being “matatag, maginhawa, at may panatag na buhay.”