The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) launched three documents to guide the government in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls during the National Women’s Day Conference on March 8, 2019 at the Philippine International Convention Center.
The Conference was participated in by 565 participants from national and local government, non-government organizations, private sector, and international development partners. Distinguished speakers, former United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary General Dr. Noeleen Heyzer and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Marivel C. Sacendoncillo addressed the crowd during the Conference.
Tools to advance women’s agenda in government
Complementing the Philippine Development Plan, the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025 was launched. It is a key reference in formulating Gender and Development (GAD) Agenda, Plans, and Budgets of agencies.
To better track GEWE outcomes and results, the Compendium of Indicators for Monitoring and Evaluation of GEWE in the Philippines was also introduced. The Compendium presents a menu of GEWE indicators in various sectoral and thematic areas of concern in the Philippines.
Also launched during the event was the updated toolkit to measure the extent of gender-responsiveness of local government units (LGUs). The Gender-Responsive Local Government Unit (GeRL) Assessment Tool can be used to gather data and information on the level of LGUs’ GAD mainstreaming efforts and practices; serve as a monitoring and evaluation tool to measure the extent of gender responsiveness of the LGU as an organization and in the delivery of basic services and facilities; and identify the gaps and corresponding strategies to achieve gender-responsive local governance.
Development for all, even in far-flung areas
In her Keynote Message, Undersecretary Sacendoncillo expressed hope that the new toolkit will enable local government officials to implement their programs more gender-responsively and gender-sensitively so that inclusive development will be felt by all women and girls particularly in the far-flung areas in the country.
It will be recalled that President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte has ordered all government agencies, oversight bodies, and LGUs down to the barangay level to fully implement the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) in his 2016 and 2017 State of the Nation Address.
“As for the DILG, aside from activating gender-responsive local governance among local governments, we shall also catalyze the interior sector namely the National Police Commission, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Philippine Public Safety College, to be proactive in doing their role in realizing the goals of the GEWE Plan,” Sacendoncillo noted.
“It is all of us, in all our various capacities and collective effort who should collaborate to ensure that women will not be left behind in pursuit of change,” she added.
Triumphs and challenges
In her Opening Remarks, PCW Chairperson Dr. Rhodora M. Bucoy noted that year 2019 opened with positive developments for women, such as the improvement of the country's rank in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) and the recent passage of the 105-day Expanded Maternity Leave Act. However, there is still a concerning gender gap relative to women's political participation that needs to be urgently addressed especially that the elections is fast-approaching.
“There is no debate that Filipino women are empowered women. This is a cause for celebration. We have broken the so called ‘glass ceilings’ but we all know that there are still barriers on the way to women empowerment,” said Bucoy.
“We have to continue working to address the poverty of women in the agriculture and urban sector, respond to their continuing clamor for genuine agrarian reform and for social inclusion in terms of provisions for affordable decent housing improved and accessible healthcare, sexual and reproductive health services in all the life cycle of women, decent wages, livelihood, and recognition and redistribution of unpaid care work,” she added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Heyzer, who was the first woman to serve as Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), stressed that to a certain extent, the current situation of women in the Philippines reflects the overall status of women globally. She noted five significant changes on women’s conditions: (1) change in mind sets of various state governments where they vowed to adhere to the international commitments on women’s human rights, (2) the emerging equal opportunities for women in terms of education, (3) the decrease in maternal mortality, (4) the increase in the political empowerment and participation of women in major organizations, and (5) greater visibility in the campaigns in ending violence.
Dr. Heyzer however said that there is still a lot of work to be done especially in areas affected by terrorism and natural calamities.
“We have made great strides. However, the terrain has changed and there are new threats to women’s freedom and agency. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I want to warn you about the rise of religious extremism, ethno-nationalism, and the weakening of multilateral institutions and institutions that promote tolerance and justice,” said Heyzer.
“Now, we collectively call attention to the need to achieve full gender equality and the empowerment of women across all sectors of society. Our work is not yet finished. If we want to have a better world for both our sons and daughters, may we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) but know that what we fight for cannot wait until next year’s IWD. It has to be done every day,” she ended.
Dr. Heyzer was the longest serving Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) which is the pre-cursor of UN Women for 13 years. She is a current member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Board on Mediation.
The National Women’s Month Conference is one of the activities spearheaded by the PCW in line with the National Women’s Month Celebration.