PCW underscores gains and challenges, awards accomplishments of agencies on Magna Carta of Women 10th Anniversary

2019 marks the first decade of the Magna Carta of Women in eliminating discrimination, upholding women’s rights and empowering every Juana. The Philippine Commission on Women headed its tenth anniversary celebration on August 14, 2019 at the Rizal Hall, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, joined by over 500 women and men from national government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations, academe, civic groups, and other stakeholders.

In her opening remarks, PCW Chairperson Rhodora Masilang-Bucoy highlighted the decade-worth of synergy to translate the provisions of the MCW to programs dedicated to every Filipina but also enthused that more can be done.  “The 10th anniversary of the signing of the law is a unique occasion to draw our attention to the stark reality of the persistence of gender disparities and women’s rights violations. We recognize that despite many difficulties and setbacks, significant progress has been made in education, economic empowerment of women as well as in women’s political participation and leadership. The Philippines now ranks 8th in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Index Report. We closed 80% of our overall gender gap, the highest value for the country ever recorded in the GGI. We have narrowed our Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap due to increases in wage equality for similar work and women’s estimated earned income. But we still have to work more to broaden women’s political participation and leadership, achieve decent wage, and address rising, pervasive sexism, and violence against women,” Bucoy said.

Looking Back: The birth of the MCW

Participants looked back at how the MCW became a law, from the drafting, lobbying and up to its signing. The measure is the local translation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), known as the international bill of rights for women by the United Nations General Assembly. 

PCW-Corporate Affairs and Information Resource Management Division Chief Honey M. Castro moderated the discussion among three prime movers in this legislative journey: Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Manggagawang Impormal sa Pilipinas (PATAMABA) National President Lourdes A. Gula who shared how they consulted with women from the rural areas and marginalized sectors so the MCW provisions will address their concerns. Atty. Maria Cleofe Gettie C. Sandoval of Ang Kilusang Pilipina, who made sure that the MCW embraced not only CEDAW, but other global agreements on women’s rights and the situation on the ground. Former PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa shared how differences in perspectives challenged the MCW’s passage and how these were hurdled. 

Looking in: A Decade of Wins and Challenges in Ten MCW Pillars

Five speakers shared stories of triumph and surpassed hurdles in championing the MCW in different sectors. 

Marina Amacio, former PCW NGO Commissioner for Peasants and Fisherfolk Sector now a Barangay Chairperson in Negros Occidental shared she decided to run for a public post banking on the strength of women in the grassroots level. 

Froilyn Mendoza, Executive Director of Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization Inc. in Cotabato City, bore witness to the impact of the MCW to her indigenous community. She also appealed for the protection of women’s rights to ancestral lands  and the Bangsamoro Law.

Raima Dimaampao related how her organization, Al Mujadilah Development Foundation in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, asserted the MCW provisions in order to have women-friendly spaces and gender-responsive humanitarian actions during crisis situations.

Felipe Maldora told her success story from being a battered migrant worker to an owner of a cacao farm, “Villa Cortes Criollo”, after she became a beneficiary of the Balik Pinas Balik Hanapbuhay Program.

The youngest of the speakers, 18-year old Christine Abigail Tolentino, enthused how, from public spaces to institutions, teenagers like her experience discrimination. But despite this, she succeeded, and now she will be taking up Bachelor of Arts-Master of Arts Political Science with a specialization in Global Politics Program as a scholar.

From testimonies to visuals, the Philippine Commission on Women also presented the victories in the the ten pillars of the Magna Carta of Women through a video presentation.

First, the MCW afforded protection from all forms of violence. At the core of this pillar is the establishment of a Violence Against Women (VAW)’s desk in every barangay. In 2018, 90% of the 42,044 barangays nationwide created their VAW Desks. As a result of unrelenting efforts to end domestic and intimate violence, VAWC cases dramatically went down from 31,937 in 2015 to 14,116 reported cases in 2019.

Recently, the MCW scored a key victory with the enactment of Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act in April 2019. It defines and penalizes gender-based sexual harassment in streets, public spaces, online, workplaces, and educational and training institutions, like wolf whistling, catcalling, misogynistic and homophobic slurs, and unwanted sexual advances.

For the second pillar, the MCW also led to the integration of a gender perspective in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), climate resilience and mitigation. Agencies provided women-friendly spaces and hygiene kits to women in disaster, calamities, and crisis situations. The women’s role in promoting environmental protection is also acknowledged. For example, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Forest Management Bureau adheres to gender mainstreaming with its Strategic Plan 2018-2022.

Third, women also gained increased representation and participation in decision-making bodies and processes under the MCW. Gender balance in professions and services is pursued in the public and private sectors. In 2017, women comprise 61.7% of the force in career service. In the legislative body, the Senate almost attained the 50:50 ratio, with five women and seven women winning in the 2019 elections. But in total, only seven out of twenty-four senators in the 18th Congress are female. In the House of Representatives, men are still greater in number and the same is true in the local government units. Meanwhile, women in the judicial branch are making significant strides, with the number of female judges in the lower courts significantly growing from only 28% in 2009 to 49% in 2018.

Fifth, under the MCW, a womb-to-tomb approach to women’s and girls’ overall health is pursued.  Headlining landmark laws in this pillar is the 105-Day Extended Maternity Leave Law or Republic Act 11210. The measure, which took effect on March 11, 2019, increased the daily maternity leave benefit to 105 days with full pay from the initial 60 days, or 78 days in case of cesarian delivery. It brought the Philippines to third place among the ASEAN Countries in terms of maternity leave.

Sixth, the MCW continues to uphold women’s right to decent work. A manifestation is the repeal of the Labor Code’s provision prohibiting women to engage in night work. The measure also advocates women’s right to livelihood and migrant workers’ right to education and training. The MCW steered the passage of Republic Act No. 11227, otherwise known as the “Handbook for OFWs Act of 2018,” which seeks to “publish, disseminate, and update a handbook on the rights and responsibilities of migrant workers.”

Seventh, social protection policies, systems, and programs were also put in place under the MCW.  A case in point is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program which employs Gender and Development (GAD) as an approach. Now in its 11th year of implementation, around 24 million individuals are being served, 87% of which are women.  

The eighth pillar built under the MCW solidifies policies relative to peace and development. Under this, the Philippines became the first country in Asia to adopt a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAPWPS). It is now on its third generation, adhering to the tenets enshrined in the MCW in promoting and protecting women’s rights, particularly in conflict situations. 

Ninth, institutional mechanisms set by the Philippine Commission on Women continue to ensure that gender mainstreaming is implemented pursuant to the MCW. The creation of a GAD Focal Point System (GFPS) aided in the realization of this in the agencies. As of December 2018, there are 93 agencies with updated GFPS profiles in the PCW database. The PCW also provides technical assistance on gender mainstreaming, attended by members of the Gender Resource Pool, who are 141 in number as of August 2019. In line with its mandate under the MCW, COA issued the Revised Guidelines in the Audit of GAD Funds and Activities in 2014, and the Checklist of Common Audit Observations on GAD Funds in 2018. These issuances increased the percentage of compliance of government agencies in the submission of GAD Plans and Budgets, and GAD Accomplishment Reports to PCW.

Tenth, the MCW also pushed for non-discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of women in media. As part of this, the Media Gender Equality Committee (MGEC) released the Gender Fair Media Guidebook (GFMG) as a reference for media professionals to practice gender sensitivity in all their core processes leading to producing media outputs.

Looking up: The GADtimpala Awards 2018

One of the highlights of the anniversary celebration is the GADtimpala Awards, where the PCW recognized deserving entities, government agencies, and local government units for their remarkable efforts in gender mainstreaming and implementation of gender responsive programs. GADtimpala, or the “Gender and Development Transformation & Institutionalization through Mainstreaming of Programs, Agenda, Linkages & Advocacies,” started in 2013, but was launched in 2018 as the official GAD Incentives and Awards System of the PCW.

Through a self-assessment tool called Gender Mainstreaming Evaluation Framework (GMEF), the PCW and government agencies are able to monitor efforts in protecting the rights of women, achieving gender equality, and making an impact in the lives of women and men. The winners were selected based on the validation of results in GMEF, covering the year 2009 until December 2018.

Under the category GADtimpala for Outstanding Gender-Responsive Agency, six (6) government agencies were recognized, led by the Commission On Audit (COA) followed by the Commission On Higher Education (CHED), Department Of Labor & Employment (DOLE), National Housing Authority (NHA), National Economic & Development Authority (NEDA), and Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). All the awardees received a glass marker and the newly-launched GADtimpala trophy crafted by Julie Lluch.

COA was awarded because of ensuring the judicious use of the Gender and Development (GAD) budget through the audit of GAD funds, thereby strengthening the implementation of the GAD budget policy.

CHED also received the award due to its pioneering policy, CHED Memorandum Order No. 01, Series of 2015, which pushed for gender mainstreaming in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), promoted women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Mathematics (STEAM) discipline, and imposed stricter disciplinary actions on sexual harassment.

DOLE landed a spot for its policies ensuring decent and safe work environment for women and providing opportunities to increase women’s access to employment, like the Entitlement of Kasambahay to Other Statutory Leave Benefits and Labor Standard Benefits, Balik Pinay – Balik Hanapbuhay Project, and many others.

NHA supported women by providing better living conditions as a result of gender mainstreaming in resettlement policies and programs.

NEDA also gained an award for integrating a gender perspective in national and regional development planning processes, programs, and policies.

And the CFO was honored for its implementation of gender-responsive programs for Filipino emigrants, and providing interventions and services for Filipinos overseas especially those who are victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence (GBV).

In the second category, two Outstanding Gender-Responsive Government Programs received the Bronze level award, namely: the Secondary National Road Development Project (SNRDP)  of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Sari-Sari Store Training & Access to Resources (STAR) Program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Coca-Cola Philippines.

The SNRDP or the Millennium Road Project reconstructed and rehabilitated 222 km of the Samar road, designed to reduce transportation costs and increasing economic and employment opportunities for women, as well as improving their access to health services.

The STAR Program provided training to women retailers aimed to widen their entrepreneurial skills and to give them access to business resources leading to the economic progress of women sari-sari store owners and operators. 

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) + 25

Also coinciding with the anniversary of the MCW, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) + 25 Progress Report was launched. The BPfA laid down a blueprint of commitments supporting the full development of women and their equality with men, agreed upon during the 4th World Conference of Women in 1995. For the Philippines, this led to the adoption of gender mainstreaming as a strategy to advance women’s rights.

In the Progress Report, the milestones from 2014 to 2019 were encapsulated in six overarching dimensions.

These dimensions cover inclusive development, shared prosperity, and decent work; poverty eradication, social protection and social services; freedom from violence, stigma, and stereotypes; equal participation and accountability; building peaceful and inclusive societies, and gender-responsive policies for the environment.

Other than the milestones under the MCW discussed above, more achievements under the BPfA were also recorded.

For example, measures to prevent trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls were also intensified with the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012. Consequently, the conviction rate grew to almost ten times more than the recorded convictions for the past eight years.

In the uniformed service, women push for equal opportunities. In the Philippine National Police, 83.4% of the 180,767 PNP uniformed personnel are male, and the remaining 16.6% are female.  In the military, women are taking high-level positions while women cadets also land spots in the Philippine Military Academy’s Top 10. In sports, Filipina athletes banner the Philippine flag in international competitions. In the 2018 Asian Games, the Philippine Contingent is composed of 144 male and 131 female athletes, with the latter delivering 61.9% of the overall medal tally.

In education, one step forward is the enactment of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, providing for free education in SUCs, LUCs, and State-run technical-vocation institutions.

In health, recent developments also include the passage of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 which allows women 15 to 18 years of age to undergo HIV testing without the need of consent from a parent or guardian; National Mental Health Law of 2018 which targets to provide mental health services down to the barangay level; the First 1000 Days Act of 2019 which promotes programs for maternal and child health in the first 1,000 days of life; and the Universal Health Care law of 2019 which guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services.

In peace and development,  one win is the signing of Republic Act 11188 or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict, which recognizes the rights of children in situations of armed conflict.

Looking forward: Challenges and Setbacks

Chairperson Bucoy also presented challenges and setbacks in fulfilling goals under the BPfA. 

These include addressing high income inequality, risks faced by women workers in the informal economy due to unfavorable working conditions and limited rights to collective bargaining, organization and social protection, gender disparity in land ownership, rising and pervasive sexism and violence against women, sexual exploitation and cyberpornography, gender-based violence in the war on drugs, and decrease in women’s participation and representation.  

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), as the national machinery for the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of women’s human rights, vows to continue championing women’s empowerment and gender equality. The PCW was founded as the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women on January 7, 1975 coinciding with the UN Decade for Women. The MCW renamed the agency as PCW.