A Force of Change from 1975 to Bagong Pilipinas: PCW celebrates 49 years
of championing gender equality and women’s empowerment

A Step towards the Golden Year: Created in 1975 by virtue of the Presidential Decree No. 633, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) was initially known as the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW). It was renamed PCW following the signing of the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) in 2009. In this photo, PCW Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves is seated beside the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Atty. Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos Jr. and PCW Commissioner Catalina G. Leonen-Pizarro representing the Business and Industry Sector during the 49th anniversary celebration of the PCW.

49 years after it was founded in the International Women’s Year as the first national women’s machinery in Asia, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is still a force of change in the Bagong Pilipinas, a master plan of genuine development and an invitation from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that calls on and challenges every Filipino to start “real change for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the country” and view the nation from a renewed perspective.

“We cannot downplay the initiatives that have been implemented and the achievements that we have had over the years, from successful provision of gender and development (GAD) technical assistance, the synchronization of relevant GAD information through various platforms, leading national celebrations and campaigns, development of analysis tools and advocating for policies and plans that address gender issues at the national level to landmark laws such as the Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), a local translation on the provision of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),” said PCW Deputy Executive Director for Operations Maria Kristine Josefina G. Balmes in her opening message.

The PCW and Herstory: Looking back on the Commission’s herstory, Deputy Executive Director for Operations Maria Kristine Josefina G. Balmes said that the agency has been deeply involved in addressing the gender issues that have historically affected Filipino women and girls’ lives and their ability to actively engage and contribute to society. “It is unfortunate that we continue to face the hindrances from enduring gender stereotypes that shape society’s receptions of what we can and cannot do, restrictions in career and education opportunities due to the disproportionate expectations on child care, unpaid care and domestic work, prejudice on our capabilities, vulnerability, harassment, and exploitations in various settings whether it be in our own households or in public spaces and institutions.”

Following the theme A Step Towards the Golden Year, PCW Deputy Executive Director for Management Services Atty. Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado presented the highlights of accomplishments for FY 2023 focusing not only on the delivery of mandated programs and services but also on internal efficiency and integrity.

“I am very proud to say that for six consecutive years, we are of unqualified audit. We have timely submission of reports to reportorial oversight agencies, 100% fully implemented on Agency Action Plan and Status of Implementation (AAPSI), and 100% Compliance to Audit Recommendations on Baseline Assessment of Internal Control System (BAICS) by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG),” Atty. Borlado noted.

The PCW in the Bagong Pilipinas: Moving forward to its golden anniversary, the PCW continues to be a force a change, striving to make a difference in the lives of all Filipino women and girls and staying true to its mandate as the primary policy making and coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns, catalyst for gender mainstreaming, authority on women’s concerns, and lead advocate on women’s empowerment, and gender equality in the country. The PCW is also the lead agency of the National Women’s Month Celebration and the 18-Day Campaign to End VAW observance. In this photo, PCW Deputy Executive Director for Management Services Atty. Khay Ann C. Magundayao-Borlado presented the highlights of the agency’s accomplishments for 2023 during its 49th anniversary.

The 49th anniversary celebration of the PCW was held on January 25, 2024 at the Hotel Lucky Chinatown in Manila, which was attended by DILG Secretary and National Police Commission Chairperson Atty. Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos Jr., PCW Commissioner Catalina G. Leonen-Pizarro representing the Business and Industry Sector, and other PCW officials, loyalty and special awardees, and personnel.

In his keynote address, Secretary Abalos congratulated the PCW for its efforts in maintaining the Philippines’ position as the leading Asian country in closing the gender gap with a 79.1 percent gender parity, ranking 16th out of 146 countries worldwide in the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum.

Bawat Barangay para sa VAW-free Pilipinas: As an attached agency of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and in line with the DILG shared values of being “Matino, Mahusay at Maaasahan”, Secretary Atty. Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos Jr. vowed to continue strengthening mechanisms for Filipino women and girls and implementing the policies of the PCW at the barangay level. The DILG chief also reported that every barangay in the country today has a Violence Against Women (VAW) desk, which serves as a frontline service provider to VAW victim-survivors. In the recently-held 18-day Campaign to End VAW spearheaded by PCW, the onsite event was entitled, “Bawat Pilipino para sa VAW-free Pilipinas.”

Secretary Abalos lauded the Women’s Commission for recommending measures that ensure the full integration of women in economic, social, and cultural development and promote further equality between women and men, which he could already attest to even when he was still a practising lawyer.

“PCW has also been instrumental in lobbying the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda (WPLA) in the 19th congress, which includes 11 proposed legislative measures such as ensuring women’s equal rights in marriage and family relations, the reinstitution of divorce, amendments in the Anti-Rape Law, enacting of the SOGIE Bill, among others. Congratulations, PCW!”

The WPLA was developed by the PCW as a tool to intensify efforts for the enactment of laws, amend or repeal discriminatory provisions of existing laws, and advocate for the formulation and adoption of new laws that promote women’s empowerment and gender equality.

“Kahanga-hanga ang inyong ginagawa para sa mga kababaihan at hindi matatawaran ang halaga ng inyong ginagawa sa mga komunidad!”

To make sure that the advocacies of the PCW are implemented at the grassroots level, the DILG chief presented some of the things that the Department has done in the local government units (LGUs) including GAD Local Learning Hubs (LLH), GAD Focal Point System, GAD Database, GAD accomplishment reports, among others. 

Moreover, Secretary Abalos reported that 100% of barangays nationwide have Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) desks, while 84% with established VAWC desks have designated VAWC officers.  

“Aside from this, we also did our part in institutionalizing the role of women in local development with the reactivation of the Lady Local Legislators’ League of the Philippines.” 

The DILG chief further said that there are still places where rape is the number one crime, which prompted him to order the Philippine National Police (PNP) to implement the “Kuwarto ni Nene” program designed to protect young girls and ensure their safety from sexual predators.

Secretary Abalos ended his keynote address by telling a story about his late mother and ensuring that the DILG will continue working with PCW in advocating gender equality and women’s empowerment up to the local level. 

“Ang sabi nga nila, the sweetest word is always the word ‘Mama’. And so, we are here to empower women, and I’ll make sure that our Department will always be with you. You’ve done a fantastic job. Magandang hapon po, PCW! At mabuhay po ang PCW!” 

The supervision of the PCW (an attached agency to the Office of the President) was transferred to the DILG pursuant to Executive Order No. 67, s. 2018 to ensure the full implementation of the MCW down to the barangay level.

In her closing message and last speech as the PCW Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge, Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves thanked all the officials and employees of the Commission for being a force of change in the lives of Filipino women and girls from 1975 during the time of former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos until this very day.

“With the lean personnel of only 100, you have exemplified what it means to be a force of change. Your unwavering commitment and passion have been the driving force behind all successes. And I want to acknowledge each one of you as the most valuable assets of this organization,” Yuzon-Chaves said.

A Lasting Impact on the Lives of Filipino Women and Girls: PCW Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge set the direction of the agency for 2024, expressed her profound gratitude to the dedicated employees and staff of PCW, and reminded them of the vital work that lies ahead. “Your hard work and dedication have fully shaped the trajectory of our Commission that have had a lasting impact on the lives of countless women and girls across the Philippines.” She ended her closing remarks with, “PCW, for my four years, thank you very much!” Atty. Yuzon-Chaves will be transferred to another government agency beginning February 1, 2024.

“Looking forward to 2024, our vision is clear: a future where every woman and girl in the Philippines is empowered, where their voices are heard and their rights are protected. So to achieve this, we must embrace a holistic approach that addresses not only the legal barriers but also social and cultural norms that perpetuate inequality,” she added. 

Executive Director and OIC Yuzon-Chaves emphasized that the agency’s focus will be on strengthened collaboration with government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector because it is by fostering partnerships can PCW amplify its impact and reinforce its fight against gender-based violence and discrimination. 

Atty. Yuzon-Chaves also underscored the role of education in the agency’s advocacy and stressed that it will strive to enhance awareness and understanding of gender issues, promote inclusivity in schools and workplaces, and empower the youth with knowledge as it is key to sharing a future generation that values equality and justice. 

“In the spirit of inclusivity, we also emphasize the importance of intersectionality, recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by women from diverse backgrounds, and ensuring that our initiatives are truly effective and leave no one behind.”

Atty. Yuzon-Chaves concluded her speech by again thanking the Commission she had led for the past four years and encouraged them to continue working hand in hand towards a future where equality is not just an aspiration but a lived-in reality.

“As we chart through our course for 2024, I want to emphasize that none of our achievements would have been possible without your passion, your expertise that you brought here in PCW. Your commitment to this cause is not just a job, it is a calling and it is the driving force that propels us forward.” 

The PCW is the primary policy making and coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns, and it continues to build upon the past efforts and achievements in advancing the status of women. Its work and functions are planned, implemented, and monitored by six delivery units: Office of the Executive Director, Administrative and Finance Division, Corporate Affairs and Information Resource Management Division, Policy Development, Planning and Monitoring Division, Sectoral Coordination Division, and Technical Services and Regional Coordination Division.