Putting women at the front and center

“You can’t marginalize more than half of the globe’s population and expect to see any meaningful solutions to the problems that ail the world.”Helene D. Gail

Politics has generally been the domain of males. The very first concept of a citizen born out of the ancient Greek practice of democracy and the politics of the city state has always been male. It has been assumed that the household is headed by the male – all decisions made privately inside the household are to be carried by the males in the public setting. In the practice of politics, it was only the males that were given the right to vote and participate for it was believed that it was only the males that were fitted in such public activity. For so long, women were not given the right to vote because of the assumption that their concerns are not in public activities and politics but rather confined in the private setting or only within the household.

By the 1920s in the United States, women suffragists fought for the right to vote. This movement snowballed in various parts of the world including the Philippines. In the Philippines, women were granted the right to suffrage in 1937 though a plebiscite. The Philippines has come a long way when it comes to women and gender issues. The Philippines takes the lead in Asia in closing the gender gap. According to the Gender Gap Index, the Philippines was able to close this gap by 4% for education, political empowerment and health for the past 10 years, and 3% in economic participation. The implication of this is that it will take 118 years for the Philippines to close the gap in all 4 of the indicators. Although this is the case, the Philippines has a long way to go – women’s and gender issues are often overshadowed by other problems and have not figured their way in most of the agendas of our leaders today.

Women constitute more than half of the population of the Philippines and more than half the electorate yet issues on women remain silenced and treated minor. If we were to expect significant changes on issues such as poverty, disaster and climate change, education, healthcare and security – it is vital to put focus on those who are most vulnerable.

Women’s Agenda for Good Governance of SPARK Philippines

Focus is on six main issues, namely:

  • Compliance and implementation of the The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) , Security Council Resolution 1325, and the Magna Carta of Women
  • Strengthening of campaigns against violence against women
  • Access to healthcare services which includes sexual and reproductive health services
  • Implementation of gender-sensitive environmental prevention, protection and disaster management plan
  • Participation on politics and decision-making
  • Providing economic empowerment for women through protection of land rights, food security, unemployment or underemployment.

The Legislature is vital in addressing issues on women law-making and budgetary and oversight powers. Several laws focused on women have already been passed including the anti-violence against women law, anti-sexual harassment law, reproductive health and rights, gender and development and the most comprehensive Magna Carta of Women.

Pinay Vote, Talakayan Para sa Kababaihan A Senatorial Forum on Women and Gender Issues

Pinay Vote: Talakayan Para sa Kababaihan is a senatorial forum produced and hosted by Claire Delfin Media and organized by the Samahan ng mga Pilipina Para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK ) Philippines Inc together with KaSaMa (Karapatan sa Malikhaing Paraan). SPARK is an SEC registered NGO comprising empowered women and that aims to uplift women and women organizations through making them national development partners. SPARK believes that “We are change makers and servant-leaders. We believe that as women, we should get involved in governance and participate in our nation and community’s affairs.”

This forum was centered on women and gender issues. The goal of the forum was to form a shed light on issues on women and gender in order to successfully integrate it into the political agenda. Three particular issues were discussed namely: women and health, youth and women’s education, and women’s security. It was also the venue where senatorial candidates were able to discuss their legislative platforms that caters to the issue at hand. Guest reactors were also there to throw questions and give comments on the plans of the senatorial candidates.

There are three key ideas on the forum:

  • The forum aims to create an environment that enables the political and economic empowerment of women.
  • The forum stands for the notion that substantive change will come about in the form of sustainable and inclusive development through the empowerment of women.
  • The forum also emphasizes that women empowerment and the promotion of the issues of women is not confined to voting for women only. It is about voting for gender champions and supporters of women’s cause and issues.

Pinay Vote: Talakayan Para sa Kababaihan is probably the only forum held for the senatorial candidates. It is a good avenue to get to know senatoriables that have concrete platforms on women and gender issues. It is vital to get to know who has genuine concern for women and has included them in their agenda. Any substantial change will only come forth when the approach is inclusive of all genders.

Legislators play a key role in addressing women’s issues not only through their law-making but their budgetary and oversight powers as well. Several laws have been passed on violence against women, sexual harassment, reproductive rights, gender and development, and the most recent, all ecompassing Magna Carta of Women. But their implementation needs to be strengthened.