Juana Laban sa Pandemya, Kaya! PCW Message for the 2021 National Women’s Month Celebration

As the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) leads the observance of the 2021 National Women’s Month Celebration, we are making our call for women’s empowerment and gender equality louder, as we look at this moment as both an opportunity and a challenge. 

We take this opportunity to honor women who fulfill extraordinary roles in society. Our #WonderJuanas, with their grit and grace, passion and compassion, diligence and intelligence, build the family, community, and the nation as a whole. In different fields, from the home to the school, laboratories, streets, barangay, police or army units, places of art, culture, and music, sports gyms, legislative buildings, women make their mark.

As we continue to give tribute and recognition to women, this observance also poses a challenge to all of us: Making Change Work for Women, especially as we continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us use this occasion as a platform to discuss and address issues that women continue to face. It calls for concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions towards gender equality. 

We are all part of this advocacy. All government agencies, private institutions, civil society organizations, academe, local government units from provinces to barangays, and every person, can help address the continuing and emerging issues that hamper women’s empowerment and gender equality. Therefore, we must work in solidarity towards the closure of the gender gap that to date, no country has yet to achieve.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 of the World Economic Forum, gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years. The Philippines remains the top country in Asia in terms of closing the gender gap. The report shows that the Philippines has closed 78% of its overall gender gap. It ranked 16th out of 153 countries with the narrowest gap between men and women, dropping by 8 notches from its place in the 2019 report. It is important to note that the dip in the country’s ranking is traced to the Political Empowerment gap which has widened considerably over the past years. From 41.6% in 2019, the political empowerment score is down to 35.3 in 2020. This is due to the lower female representation in the cabinet as well as in the Congress.

This year’s International Women’s Day is anchored on the theme, Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. We celebrate women trailblazers in politics, governance, and other areas of public service and development efforts, especially during the pandemic. Women from all walks of life have in their own way shown leadership and compassion in the delivery of inclusive, innovative, and effective responses to the pandemic. In every family, every barangay, every island of the nation, and every small or big organization, we have Juanas who takes the role of solution providers, peacemakers, and trendsetters during these difficult times.

The skills and talents that women have should be further harnessed by empowering and providing them spaces that enable their meaningful participation in planning and decision making at various levels. Consistent with the Magna Carta of Women, concrete actions shall be taken to achieve equality between women and men, be it in politics, economic participation, health and survival, educational attainment, and other fields.

As we celebrate women’s strength and resilience, we also recognize that this health crisis has its gendered impacts that we cannot neglect. We saw women bearing the brunt of intensive domestic work, women and girls striving to adjust to the new normal like online classes, women being in the frontlines battling the pandemic, women entrepreneurs losing their businesses, women workers facing pay cuts or entirely losing their job, women experiencing different forms of violence during the implementation of quarantine measures. All these also take a toll on their mental health. 

It is thus an opportune time for us to make use of this observance to discuss gender issues that the pandemic has exacerbated. This is a call to action for us to ensure that women’s needs are responded to and integrated in COVID-19 response and recovery programs. 

We know Juanas are resilient. They thrive, they innovate, and they are even able to give hope to others despite the present circumstances. With the appropriate mechanisms and absent the barriers to empowerment, we can see more #WonderJuanas conquering inequities and creating opportunities. As our 2021 National Women’s Month Celebration slogan goes, Juana Laban sa Pandemya, Kaya! And this can only be possible in a society where our #SuperJuans view them as equals, treat them with respect and dignity, and do their share in domestic responsibilities. 

The PCW thanks all the advocates that participate in the National Women’s Month Celebration. Let us continue to conduct activities that are aligned with national and international instruments and treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Magna Carta of Women, the Framework Plan for Women, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are all in this together, and indeed, that is the only way forward. Women, let us enable and empower other Juanas and make sure that discrimination is eradicated and that they are able to contribute to and benefit from development efforts. Men, we implore that you help us trump the traditional macho culture and enjoin more Juans to practice positive instead of toxic masculinity. To members of the LGBTQ+ community, you are a major part and drivers of the campaign for gender equality. To government agencies and private institutions and all organizations, we count on your concrete programs, policies, and services that will help turn the wheel of gender equality and women’s empowerment. And lastly, to the women leaders coming from various sectors who are at the center of this year’s celebration, we salute you for your trailblazing efforts to continue paving pathways for more women and girls to become leaders and propel positive change for our nation.

In this COVID-19 world and beyond, let us all Make Change Work for Women and reap progress as we let #WomenMakeChange!