Empower one woman—and she herself will raise others with her
Gender inequality is the unfinished business of our times.
SPARK! Philippines, in partnership with UN Women and Generation Equality, presents #Women2020. The month-long initiative consists of educational and advocacy driven activities to celebrate National Women's Month. The pivotal event #Women2020 Summit: Women in the Next Decade was held last March 5 at the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura in Taguig. It is a convergence of women's rights advocates, human rights activists, civil society partners and individuals from both private and public sectors to incite conversations on the global mission of equality.
Women are gravely underrepresented. We need allies—regardless of gender—who will redefine women empowerment and challenge gender norms. We need compassionate leaders to display the kind of leadership that builds and sustains communities. This new activism transcends gender.
The Future of Women: Cementing Filipina Leadership
There is a dire need to assert the Filipina's active participation in policy and decision-making spheres and have them lead essential discussions that chart the future of the Filipino people. Hon. Leni Robredo, Vice President of the Philippines, presents a challenge for all: How do we make all women real—especially the least, the last and the lost?
Angat Buhay, Robredo's flagship anti-poverty program, continues to reach and help marginalized communities through pro-poor projects and partnerships against poverty—linking private companies and organizations with the underprivileged in the laylayan. Through contributing to their means of livelihood, women can hope and dream bigger, which gives them dignity and empowerment. She declares, “Build a bridge between ideals and tangible realities, between the horizon and the trenches, between the futures we envision and the daily grind. Empower one woman—and she herself will raise others with her.”
Limitless: Women and Empowerment
The first panel includes Peace Advocate Samira Gutoc, Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles, Director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women's and Gender Studies (CWGS), Amina Evangelista-Swaneopoel, Founding Executive Director of Roots of Health and Kylie Verzosa of Mental Health Matters. They further the discussion on what empowerment means to the modern Filipina.
We can say that some Filipinos are empowered, but how empowered are they really? Richer women in urban areas have more rights and opportunities than poorer in rural parts of the country. How can the same women be empowered when they don’t have control over their bodies? Reproductive health and sexuality are taboo topics; meanwhile, unplanned pregnancy and HIV rates continue to increase in the Philippines.
What can we do? According to Ugat ng Kalusugan's Amina Evangelista-Swaneopoel, access to free and high-quality medical services need to be given to the poorest of the poor. Full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law is needed. Young people also need to be provided with sexuality education. Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles concurs, believing that women must have full autonomy and control over their bodies and lives; this leads them to exercise and enable informed choices. She shares, “Women’s empowerment is not merely a goal, it is also a process. That process in itself is valuable.” She adds, “Women’s empowerment demands that we assume responsibility for all those who are marginalized ensuring that no one…is left behind.”
No Woman Left Behind: Empowering Women through Gender-Responsive Governance
Mayor Joy Belmonte presented the many female-centric, opportune government initiatives they have created through the years in Quezon City. The next decade poses an opportunity to promote an inclusive and feminist development through gender-responsive governance. These grassroots efforts include women’s health and wellness centers, drug rehabilitation for women (with shelter) and economic means of livelihood. She dreams of a society where truly, no woman is left behind.
Women Changing the World: Creating Change Through Gender-Responsive Legistation
Embarking on a new decade calls for legislations that address gender issues which hinder the potential and capacity of women in nation building. Senator Grace Poe presented the many double standards females face in the workplace. Lawmaking through a feminist lens must be practiced to make change sustainable through institutionalized policies on gender and development.
Regardless of progress made, the Filipina is still a vulnerable part of society. The challenge remains entrenched. No one can afford to just sit back; this will require collective commitment from us all.
Photos SPARK! Philippines
Art Matthew Fetalver