As we celebrate the 2020 National Women’s Month, the Philippine Commission on Women exults every woman: Babae, pambihira ka!
Women are extraordinary in strength, passion, wisdom, vigor, and heart. They dare to break stereotypes that have long imprisoned them, battle discrimination head on, and survive every hurdle, only to emerge stronger. Women, from different backgrounds and places, strive to show that no, this is not just a man’s world; this is a world for everyone!
We honor those who refused to conform with the standards of “womanhood” that the society dictates. These societal norms include seemingly basic aspects - clothes to wear, hair color, body size, body hair, makeup – to actions and decisions in life like occupation, housework, relationships, marriage, keeping the maiden name, leadership, profession, and many others. Every decision is for a woman to make. Every woman must measure up to her own standards of being.
We honor women who were at the forefront of catalyzing change not only for themselves, but more so, for the country. We thank women who used their top positions in different branches of the government to better society, those who made strides in male-dominated, uniformed service, like Commodore Luzviminda Camacho, recently named as the first female Commodore of the Philippine Navy; women from the marginalized sectors who continue to fight for their rights; women athletes who brought pride to the country especially those who competed at the Sea Games 2019; those who made breakthroughs in science; those who, regardless of age, contribute to development efforts; those who never let the disabilities hamper their life, and many other women trailblazers.
We also recognize that there are women who still face barriers to achieving their full potential because of gender inequality. Some women receive unequal pay, take on excessive domestic work, experience sexual harassment or violence, endure life below the poverty line, or are disregarded in politics and making decisions that concern them.
Despite our actions and gains, no single country has achieved gender equality yet. The 2020 Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum, revealed that “projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report.” Since its inception in 2006, the Philippine consistently ranked among the top 10 countries in closing the gender gap, but slid down to rank 16 in the 2020 report, attributed to gaps in women’s political empowerment. The report noted that the downgrade is due to the lower female representation in the cabinet, which declined from 25% to 10% between 2017 to 2019. Female representation in Congress also fell slightly, at 28% at the beginning of 2019. However, it remains as the sole Asian country that made it to the top twenty tier; followed by Lao People’s Democratic Republic which ranked 43rd.
As we mark the 25th year of the Beijing Platform for Action this year, it is time to recommit ourselves to the advancement of women’s rights and equal opportunities for all. Only through gender equality can we achieve genuine progress. By empowering women and levelling the playing field for them, we harness the extraordinary character of every Juana, and that in turn, will turn the wheels of development for our society.
We commend the growing number of women and men who continue to be our partners in this advocacy. May you never waver in your adamant pursuit for the twin goals of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
We call on the government agencies and other stakeholders to double their efforts to mainstream gender and development in their plans, programs, and policies. We call on law enforcers to ensure the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence. We call on educational institutions to put an end to practices that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and stereotypes. We call on service providers to ensure timely and appropriate services to women’s needs, especially those who are affected by disasters, armed conflict, and violence. We call for adequate health services for all women. We call on media outfits to champion women’s rights through balanced and empowering portrayal of women in media, film, and advertising. We call on everyone to recognize and support women in agriculture, science, sports, environmental preservation, economics, and emerging industries like data science and artificial intelligence.
As we highlight in this year’s National Women’s Month Celebration, let us all Make Change Work for Women of all generations. From our end, we do this by creating an enabling environment for government and other stakeholders to be more gender-responsive; by conducting gender sensitivity training; by lobbying policies that integrate women’s concerns; by providing services to institutions in line with Gender and Development or GAD; by promoting the rights of women in all sectors, especially the marginalized; and by promoting women’s economic empowerment, among others.
Let us enable every Juana to show how extraordinary she can be by tearing down barriers to gender equality, ending discrimination, and fighting sexism and toxic masculinity.
This March, let us be reminded that this month is not only for us, women. It is for everyone. It is a day for all of us to celebrate women and work for their full empowerment. Let us all unite and make gender equality a lived reality. Let us all Make Change Work for women!