The Philippines has made leaps in advancing gender equality and promoting the empowerment of women and girls. While it dropped to 16th rank in the 2019 Global Gender Gap Index from 8th in 2018, the Philippines has maintained its position as the most gender equal country in Asia. The 2019 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum affirms that the country has closed 78 percent of its gender gap particularly in education attainment, economic participation and opportunity, and health and survival. The Global Gender Gap Reports may be accessed here.
The country’s commitment to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls stems from its adherence to various international commitments and agreements, to which it is a State party. The Philippines is one of the 189 countries that ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 and described as a landmark international bill of rights of women.
It is also one of the countries in the United Nations (UN) that adopted in consensus the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), the resulting document of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. In fact, the Philippines played a vital role in crafting the BPfA as it was a Filipina who chaired the Main Committee that negotiated the Platform. The BPfA flagged 12 key areas where urgent action was needed to ensure greater equality and opportunities for women and men, girls and boys by laying out concrete ways for countries to bring about change. The country continues to actively participate in the succeeding sessions that assess BPfA implementation every 5 years.
In September 2015, the Philippines together with other UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, replacing the eight (8) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which concluded that year. Seventeen (17) goals, which include Goal 5 to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” , were adopted as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.
Through PCW and the Department of Foreign Affairs – UN and other International Organizations (DFA-UNIO), the Philippines participates in the annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) The UN CSW is the principal intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is also mandated to lead the monitoring and review of the implementation of the BPfA and contribute to the follow-up of the SDGs. Every UN CSW main session considers a priority theme and a review theme, which are the focus of the outcome document or Agreed Conclusions.
At the regional front, the Philippines is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an intergovernmental organization composed of ten countries in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational and socio-cultural integration among its member states and other countries in Asia. The Philippines supports gender mainstreaming and promotes women’s and girls’ rights in the region by participating in the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women (AMMW), ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).
The country is also a founding member economy of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). APEC is an intergovernmental forum for 21 member economies in the Pacific Rim that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. Integrated in these intergovernmental cooperations is the promotion of gender equality in the realization of their specific objectives, primarily achievement of women’s economic empowerment through the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE). The Philippines’ focal points to the PPWE are PCW, the Department of Trade and Industry – Resource Generation and Management Service (DTI-RGMS) and the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (WomenBizPH).
Aside from the international mandates above, the Philippines is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which establishes women’s rights as human rights; conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) such as the Equal Remuneration Convention and Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention; and other international human rights treaties that promote and protect women’s rights. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), among others.
The Philippine government, having acceded to all these international treaties and instruments, will continually affirm its commitment to ensure that it pursues gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls in all aspects of the development process to eventually make real a gender responsive society.