The Philippines has made leaps in advancing gender equality and promoting the empowerment of women. It is the only country in Asia to fully close the gender gap in education and health and one of only eight countries in the world to do so. The 2010 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum affirms these facts and the other fact that it has closed 77 percent of its gender gap, ranking 9th in the world. In 2009, the government ratified a landmark legislation for gender equality known as the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) which only established further its thrust to protect and promote Filipino women's human rights as it continues to institutionalize gender concerns in the mainstream development process.
Philippine bureaucratic actions protected women through laws while their interests in getting fair treatment and equal opportunities in terms of employment, career advancement, access to health benefits and many others were advanced. Cognisant of gender equality as a crosscutting theme for development, the Philippines integrated the gender perspective in the formulation of its policies for national planning and management. Integrating the gender perspective though is not a new concept. It was adopted by the Philippines through its state obligation as a signatory to various international instruments and agreements.
In the later part of the 20th century, gender issues have been a staple on the agenda of worldwide development forums. As a result, the international community has made important commitments for the advancement and promotion of women's rights and gender equality which include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGsare eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015 through the Millennium Declaration in 2000. Since the MDGs have become the centerpiece of a common agenda embraced by all nations, they are positioned to be effective machineries for change and a platform for the advancement of gender equality. Specifically, gender equality is addressed by the third MDG which is to “promote gender equality and empower women.”
It is important to note that the eight MDGs are mutually reinforcing. Progress in one goal affects the progress of the other goals. Thus, a victory in the attainment of thorough gender equality would eventually translate to boost the other goals. The relevance of gender issues in achieving all the MDGs should always be recognized. Though the objectives of the MDGs are not new, they are intended to advance progress on some of the 12 critical areas identified by the BPfA, which was adopted by all members of the UN at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995; the CEDAW, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and ratified by 170 countries; and the other international treaties and conventions that guarantee the rights of women. What sets the MDGs apart from these earlier provisions for women is that it is fueled by concrete, time-bound, quantitative targets for action.
The BPfA and CEDAW serve as the touchstones for the realization of Goal 3 having comprehensively mapped out the procedures and measures that must be taken to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. The BPfA and CEDAW have also generated a wealth of understanding and experience that shed light to the nature of gender-based discrimination and expounded on the necessary steps to eradicate gender inequality. The directions provided to UN member states in these instruments concern the most critical dimensions of gender discrimination including gender-based violence, cultural stereotypes, prostitution and trafficking, armed conflict, governance, laws, the media, education, employment, health care, family planning, the environment and poverty among others. Since the MDGs were conceived as tools for accelerating, revitalizing and re-intensifying efforts to fulfill existing global commitments, the challenge, especially under the third MDG is to ensure the apt implementation of the BPfA and CEDAW worldwide.
The Philippine government for its part, having acceded to all these international instruments, will continually affirm its commitment to ensure that it pursues gender equality in all aspects of the development process to eventually make real, a gender-responsive society.