The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is one with the nation in remembering the life and works of its former Chairperson, Leticia Ramos Shahani. Her passion to advance women’s rights is immeasurable.
On March 20, former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, feminist, diplomat and farmer returned to her Creator and is resting in Eternal Peace.
Sen Ramos Shahani helped shape the women’s global agenda when she joined the UN as first representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) from 1967 to 1975. She became a Rapporteur, then a Vice Chairperson and finally the Chairperson of the Commission in 1974.
It was during Shahani’s term that the CSW prepared for the first international conference on women held in Mexico City in 1975. The year declared by the UN General Assembly as the International Women’s Year.
In preparation for the aforementioned conference, Shahani along with other women leaders, planned to set-up a national machinery for women’s rights. This paved the way for the establishment of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) in 1975, envisioned as the central coordinating and policy-making body for women. She served as the Commission’s Chair in 1986, which was cut short with her election to the Philippine Senate in 1987.
The former NCRFW Chair was also part of the drafting of the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 1967 – which paved the way for the crafting of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which is the international bill of rights of women.
The NCRFW was renamed as the Philippine Commission on Women by the Magna Carta of Women in 2009.
Her last engagement with the PCW was during the filming of the All-Women Cast Lupang Hinirang Video where she was featured along with the other women leaders who represented the Philippines in various international bodies. She also gave the keynote address before women leaders and professionals during the Forum on Women’s Leadership titled “Why Women? Why Now? Why You?” held at the Pamatansan ng Lungsod ng Pasig in the 2015 National Women’s Month Celebration.
“The PCW is very grateful to Senator Shahani. The creation and strengthening of the PCW, the institutionalization of the Gender and Development (GAD) budget, the anti-rape law, among others, are attributable to her pioneering efforts," said PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa.
"The women of the world and the Filipino women owe this woman of substance the rights they presently enjoy". Thanks to her pioneering work while in the UN, to pass CEDAW which enshrines the rights of women", added Dr. Rhodora M. Bucoy, the current Chairperson of the Commission.
We salute her for offering her life and work to make human rights real in the lives of women and girls in our country.
Shahani was born on September 1929 to lawyer and journalist Narciso Ramos and educator Angela Valdez Ramos. She is the youngest sister of former President Fidel V. Ramos.
The late senator finished her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She is a holder of master's degree Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. She later earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature at the University of Paris. Aside from being a diplomat and legislator, Dr. Shahani also joined the academe after her retirement from politics. She was a former dean of the Graduate School of Lyceum of the Philippines and former Dean of the College of International, Humanitarian, and Development Studies of Miriam College.
In 2015, both houses of the Congress recognized the late senator for her invaluable contributions in shaping women’s agenda.
The House of Representatives adopted House Bill No. 2007, on June 9, 2015, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Villarica, to commend the initiatives of Dr. Shahani in empowering Filipino women. The former legislator received a Certificate of Recognition from the Lower House handed by former House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. The Senate adopted Resolution No. 1396 sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda to confer same recognition to their former Senate President Pro-Tempore.
Dr. Shahani, the former Secretary-General of the UN Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1995, was the head of the Philippine delegation to the UN Fourth World Conference in Beijing, China in 1995.
She was the author of the Republic Act 6725 or the “Strengthening the Prohibition of Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace”; RA 8353 or the “Anti-Rape Law of 1997” and the RA 8505, “Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998.” She championed the Gender and Development (GAD) Budget Policy which stipulates the allocation of at least five percent of every government agency’s total budget for the advancing women’s rights and gender equality.
On her passing, the Commission extends its sincere condolences to the bereaved family of Senator Shahani.