Muslim women leadership issues discussed in Women’s Day Forum
The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in partnership with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), conducted a Women’s Day Forum on March 8. The discussions centered on the 2013 Women’s Month theme “Kababaihan: Gabay sa Pagtahak sa Tuwid na Daan.”
Women’s leadership abilities and the challenges to overcome them were the center of the discussions and demonstrations. A special topic on Muslim women and their political participation was also discussed.
NCMF Commissioner for Women Raida Bansil-Maglangit stressed that women can be good leaders and are not second-class citizens. She said she “gave her all” when she was the mayor of the then “war-torn” Kapatagan municipality in Lanao del Sur. “Becoming a good leader does not depend on one’s academic background. You may be smart but do not have the heart to serve,” she said.
Maglangit also called upon the Muslim women to stop belittling themselves. She cited the “high risk” role that Muslim women play in times of armed conflict. “We go out to bring sustenance and letters of encouragement to the men so they can survive,” she said.
On the issue of elective positions held by women, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Education, Information Division Chief Erna Malinao said that there is “no significant leap” despite the greater number of Filipino women than men who register and exercise their right to vote. Malinao also talked about Basic Voters’ Education and demonstrated how the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) works.
PCW Deputy Director Cecile B. Gutierrez cited the country’s consistent rank among the top ten countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index Report since 2006 as well as the increasing the number of women leaders in the bureaucracy.
While numbers matter, Center for Legislative Development International (CLDI) Adviser for Regional Leadership and Governance Socorro L. Reyes said the Philippines should allot funds to implement laws and programs that support women empowerment. Reyes added that “good governance” is not enough. “Ang tuwid na daan ay masikip kaya dapat lawakan ito para sa mga kababaihan (The straight path is narrow. We must widen it to have room for more women),” Reyes said.
Meanwhile, MMDA General Manager Corazon T. Jimenez said women who have overcome barriers to leadership should help those who are still living with traditional views and practices.
The forum’s side activity showed MMDA Women First Respondents in action as they simulated scenarios during disaster. The demonstration aimed to illustrate women’s role in disaster risk reduction.
Participants of the Women’s Day Forum include members of Muslim communities and staff of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), NCMF, MMDA, Civil Defense Action Group-MMDA, and PCW.