It had to happen in March which, ironically, is National Women’s Month.
At a recent signing of a memorandum of agreement with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to provide special livelihood training programs for the latter’s personnel and their families, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General, Sec. Guiling Mamondiong, told media that the government should not send women abroad to protect them from abuses.
Here are snippets of what he purportedly said as I gleaned from several media articles on the matter:
“If you ask me, I don’t want sending women to work in another country. They become victims of abuses there. The government must create jobs or livelihood for our women. Working abroad is another form of slavery.” (Manila Standard)
“Hindi bale kalalakihan sa atin mapunta sa ibang bansa, pwede naman rin mag-asawa doon. Hindi ba? Pero yung kababaihan natin dito, pinapadala sa ibang bansa para gawing alipin lamang (It’s okay for the men to go abroad, since they can marry there. Isn’t that right? But our women, they are being sent abroad to become slaves)”
“When the women are empowered they become more powerful not just in the workplace but [also] at home. Halos wala na silang oras sa kanilang mga asawa dahil sila nga ay powerful. (They don’t have time anymore for their spouses because they are powerful)” (Inquirer)
Seriously, Mr. Secretary?
Sec. Mamondiong is probably reacting based on his upbringing, background and personal values but these appear to be incompatible with the TESDA position he is currently holding.
One, of all the government agencies, he is heading one where women form a large percentage of enrollees in technical-vocational courses. A July 2014 Philstar article reported that “more women than men are now taking up tech-voc courses”. In that same article, then TESDA Sec. Joel Villanueva reportedly cited that in 2013, “women accounted for 53 percent of the total 1,765,757 technical vocational education graduates” and that many of them “excelled in their chosen field”. It would not be surprising then if many of these women graduates actually land jobs abroad. When I checked the TESDA courses for women, I was actually happy to see that what used to be identified as courses for men were also being offered now for women.
See the screenshot below which I got from TESDA’s website.
Sec. Mamondiong’s words and mindset threaten to set back the progress that women have made over the years to gain respectability and recognition as empowered women.
Two, women do not go abroad on a whim. Many times, they are FORCED to seek employment abroad to augment their husband’s income and sometimes, due to family circumstances, they become the primary breadwinners themselves. In cases where some of them end up being abused, was it the women’s fault that they went abroad? Should we not instead ask why the male perpetrators of the crime could not control their libido and act like civilized people? And oh…may I add? Men are also raped; unfortunately, some of our male kababayans (citizens) have been victimized too.
Three, the logic of Sec. Mamondiong connecting women empowerment with having less time for their spouses (and family) is not only flawed but reflects a feudalistic mindset where women’s roles are confined to being non-equals who exist on this earth only to please men.
For the information of Sec. Mamondiong and others who think like him, we are now in an age where men and women share family and household duties as well as the family budget. Women now also have the opportunity to pursue their passions and these could be in any field of interest including tech-voc (like TESDA’s) and the corporate boardroom. Engineering is no longer just a man’s course. We are seeing more and more women engineers. We now have women geeks (still not enough of us!), women pilots, women mechanics, and even women Uber drivers. I can name several female Filipina CEOs and accomplished women in the Philippines who are making their mark in different arenas while still able to maintain wonderful relationships with their husbands and children. To hint that their accomplishments were achieved at the expense of being awesome mothers and wives smacks of sexism and encourages the suppression of women’s dreams to pursue their passions, whatever those may be.
National Women’s Month, which is being celebrated in the Philippines, must not come to an end without women speaking out and standing for our rights – the right to be recognized for what we are, what we can do, and what we still can be.
This 2017, the theme of International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. On their website were different call-to-action statements and suggested activities within those statements that women could do along the hashtag theme. I chose “I’ll challenge bias and inequality” and that is what I am doing with this article.
I am challenging the archaic notion of some men (and unfortunately, they include those holding government positions) about the role of women not only in the family but also in the community, in society, in the nation, and globally.
I salute the men who support their women as they strive to reach their highest potential. These are the men who are not intimidated by women’s achievements but rather, celebrate alongside them. These are the men who are willing to change baby diapers and take over house tasks once in a while to give their wives a break. These are the husbands who are proud that their women are also making a difference in the world, just like them.
I hope young families raise sons with this appreciation of the empowered feminine role. The old generation will pass. We need to build a new generation where both man and woman see each other as co-equals while recognizing that their masculine and feminine powers are not opposing forces but rather, complementary, mutually uplifting, and synergistic.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).