Aquino makes pitch for gender equality | Inquirer News

Aquino makes pitch for gender equality

President Benigno Aquino III. MALACANANG FILE PHOTO

To mark International Women’s Day on Saturday, Malacañang vowed to strengthen measures to combat violence against women and provide more opportunities for gender equality and empowerment.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said it was everyone’s obligation to seek an end to violence, discrimination and other forms of gender bias.


Saying that women hold “half the sky,” Coloma said in a radio interview that the nation “recognizes women who have become catalysts for change and displayed extraordinary courage, strength, care and love for their families in the midst of the storm and tragedy that devastated our country last year.”


In a statement, President Benigno Aquino III recognized the contributions of Filipino women to the country’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of calamities.

In his message for the celebration of International Women’s Day, the President said his administration joined other nations in recognizing the importance and contribution of women to society.

“Today, we should strengthen our commitment to achieve a just society,” the President said, noting that Filipino men and women alike should be “united in creating a bright future.”

Mr. Aquino noted that the nation was able to withstand the back-to-back calamities last year, such as the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu provinces, the siege in Zamboanga City and Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Visayas.

He praised the women who “stoke the flames of hope” amid difficult circumstances by tirelessly caring for their families and taking part in recovery efforts.

He said that in the aftermath of these disasters, it became clear that every nation had an obligation to make their people safe and maintain a high state of readiness against those challenges.


Malacañang noted that International Women’s Day had grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration of women across developed and developing countries.

The theme for this year’s observance of National Women’s Month is “Juana, ang tatag mo ay tatag natin sa pagbangon at pagsulong.”

In a radio interview, Coloma said the country had undertaken great strides to empower women, and these efforts were bearing fruit.

According to Coloma, the Philippines is fifth in the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking for countries with the highest respect for the rights of women and has the highest Global Gender Gap Index in 2013 in Asia (WEF Gender Quality Index).

The Philippines had performed well compared with regional economic powerhouses, such as China, Japan and India, he noted.

He said WEF also commended the country for Filipino women’s advancement and progress in the areas of economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival, educational attainment, political participation and economic equality.


‘End violence now’

“Let us be proud of Filipino women, let us be proud of our mothers who cared for us and raised us, and continue to play an important role in our families and our society,” he said.

He said the government had continually striven to eradicate violence against women (VAW).

He noted that last year, the government embarked on an 18-day campaign to raise awareness on this pervasive practice. It had the theme “End violence against women now. It’s our duty.”

He said this campaign was particularly directed at state employees and officials in local governments and national agencies, such as police and military officers, social workers, health workers, prosecutors, judges and lawmakers.

“The government continues to aim for a just society and to strive to elevate women’s status,” said Coloma.

To combat violence against women, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) had embarked on “massive awareness raising using all forms of media [to] help make women more informed about their rights, as enshrined in our laws on rape, sexual harassment, human trafficking and violence against women and their children [or intimate partner violence],” Coloma said.

Coloma, quoting a text message from the PCW, said front-line service providers, like barangay officials, police, health and social workers, and state prosecutors, should be enabled to become more capable in handling cases and be held accountable if remiss in their duties.


He said the PCW was also advocating to “include the men in the anti-VAW campaign” as well as expand and strengthen “MOVE” (men opposed to violence against women everywhere).

“[MOVE] is an organization of men who talk to other men [so that they will] never condone, remain silent or commit VAW,” said Coloma.

He said police statistics showed a sharp increase in reported cases of VAW, from over 16,000 in 2012 to 23,000 in 2013.

“This means more women are breaking their silence and coming out to put a stop the abuse they are experiencing,” he said.

Workplace advancement

But citing data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, Coloma said women had a higher employment rate (93.3 percent) compared to men (92.7 percent).

The number of women professionals also reached 68.3 percent compared to 31.7 percent for men and more than half, or 52.1 percent, of women hold executive or managerial positions, he said.

“In the remaining two years of the term of the President, he knows that women have a pivotal role in advancing… widespread and lasting progress for our people,” he said.


Women in disasters

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. also praised women in disaster areas for their contribution to helping the country rise above the challenges brought about by these calamities.

In a statement, Ochoa expressed his admiration to these women who serve “as pillars of strength and solidarity in their respective families, communities and our nation.”

The executive secretary said the capacity of Filipino women to endure and prevail under demanding circumstances embodied women empowerment.

“Heroines all, women in affected areas, though victims themselves, have inspired us with their efforts to keep their families together, extending assistance to others as volunteers in rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and ably performing their duties as leaders in their respective communities,” Ochoa said.


Platform for action

He took the opportunity to announce that the Philippines would begin this month an assessment of the progress of its commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) in preparation for the 20-year global review next year.

The BPFA is an international accord for women’s rights created during the Fourth World Conference on Women of the United Nations in Beijing in 1995. It has the backing of some 189 countries, including the Philippines.

The BPFA includes key areas of concern that need action, such as women and poverty, violence against women and access to power and decision-making.

“The Philippine experience can very well be a major contribution to this review as the world looks at more opportunities for gender equality and empowerment, and for broadening advocacy in the promotion and protection of women’s rights after 2015,” Ochoa said.

The Philippine report will be crafted by stakeholders in the government and nongovernment sectors, and will be tackled during the Women’s Consultative Conference this month, he said.



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TAGS: Bohol, Cebu, empowerment, Malacañang, Violence

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