The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is the primary policy-making and coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns. As the oversight body on women’s concerns, the PCW acts as a catalyst for gender mainstreaming, authority on women’s concerns, and lead advocate of women’s empowerment, gender equity, and gender equality in the country.

The PCW was formerly known as the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) until August 14, 2009. This was the date that NCRFW was renamed as PCW and its mandate was expanded by the enactment of Republic Act 9710, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Women (MCW).

The NCRFW was established on January 7, 1975 through Presidential Decree No. 633, as an advisory body to the President and the Cabinet on policies and programs for the advancement of women. It was mandated "to review, evaluate, and recommend measures, including priorities to ensure the full integration of women for economic, social and cultural development at national, regional and international levels, and to ensure further equality between women and men."

During the first decade of its operations, the NCRFW thrust were on the following major programs:

  • Organizing women into a nationwide movement called "Balikatan sa Kaunlaran" (shoulder-to-shoulder in development). This organization is now registered as an independent women's organization;
  • Conducting policy studies and lobbying for the issuance of executive and legislative measures concerning women;
  • Establishing a clearinghouse and information center on women; and
  • Monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

With the change of government in 1986, the new NCRFW officials reviewed its mandate and decided to focus agency activities on mainstreaming women's concerns in policy making, planning and programming of all government agencies.

Women's concerns were positioned at the heart of the government agenda with the integration of the gender equality principle in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It was during this period, that the first Philippine Development Plan for Women (PDPW), 1989-1992 was adopted through Executive Order No. 348. Also enacted shortly was the "Women in Nation-Building Act" (RA 7192), which promotes the integration of women as full and equal partners of men in development and nation-building.

Government officials and staff were sensitized and provided with skills to make gender and development (GAD) concerns a way of life in the government. This campaign was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) under Phase I of its Institutional Strengthening Project.

Committed to build upon and sustain the gains of the previous administrations, the NCRFW continued to push for stronger policies and programs on gender mainstreaming through institutional strengthening and capacity building of government agencies.

As a result, the period 1992 to 1998 gave birth to the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (PPGD) 1995-2025, a 30-year perspective plan that outlines the policies, strategies, programs and projects that the government must adopt to enable women to participate in and benefit from national development. Under Executive order 273, the PPGD was adopted as the country's main vehicle for implementing the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA) adopted at the 1995 UN 4th World Conference on Women.

Another milestone achievement was the passage of the legislation on the Gender and Development (GAD) Budget. The GAD Budget provision mandated all government agencies and instrumentalities including local government units (LGUs) to allocate a minimum of five percent (5%) of their total appropriations for GAD programs and project. This policy has since been incorporated annually in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), though revisions have been made to ensure effective implementation of the GAD budget policy.

To meet growing demands on its services, the NCRFW was reorganized following the issuances of Executive Order Nos. 208 and 268. The directives strengthened the NCRFW as the coordinating body on policies affecting women, by further defining its powers, functions and organizational structure.

Through the continuing support of the CIDA, the NCRFW also implemented Phase II of the Institutional Strengthening Project aimed at capacitating government agencies on gender mainstreaming, and at the same time, building NCRFW's internal capability to manage the over-all gender mainstreaming efforts in the bureaucracy.

Since 1998, the government's focus on poverty alleviation brought forth the importance of empowering women to ensure that the mainstreaming efforts of the government are contributing to the improvement of the lives of women especially at the countryside. The NCRFW, thus, intensified its advocacy for the development of programs and projects that would not only benefit the women, but also, enable them to participate in the decision-making processes.

From 2001, the NCRFW that became PCW in 2009 supported the administration’s poverty alleviation agenda by sustaining the gains of the past in making the bureaucracy work for women under the thrust of advancing and protecting human rights, promoting women’s economic empowerment and promoting gender-responsive governance.

On July 8, 2010, the PCW launched the MCW Implementing Rules and Regulations to its partners and stakeholders. It is currently revising its structure and staffing pattern to effectively and efficiently undertake and accomplish its mandate.