Pia Cayetano calls for increase in women participation in gov’t
MANILA, Philippines — Political parties should field more women candidates in next year’s elections to help increase the voice of women in governance and policy making in the country, Senator Pia Cayetano said on Friday.
Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on women, gender and family Relations, made the call ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8 and the filing of certificates of candidacies this October for the 2016 national and local polls.
“Despite all the gains that women have achieved in society, they continue to be grossly underrepresented in the realm of politics. There are only six women out of 24 members in the Senate, or 25 percent, and 79 out of 289 members in the House of Representatives, or 27 percent,” she said in a statement.
“At the local level, women’s representation is even lower. They occupy 22 percent of gubernatorial posts, 18 percent of vice-gubernatorial posts, 18 percent of provincial board seats, 21 percent of mayoralty posts, 20 percent of city councils, and 20 percent of municipal councils. On the average, only one in five elected local executives is a woman,” she pointed out.
Citing figures from the Commission on Elections, the senator noted that of the 44,326 candidates who ran for various national and local elective posts in the 2013 elections, excluding partylists, only 7,925 or 18 percent were women.
“Women make up half of our population and yet occupy just one-fifth of government elective positions. This gender imbalance reflects why many of our laws are biased against women, or why women’s issues and concerns relating to family are often neglected,” said Cayetano, author of several pro-women legislation such as the Reproductive Health Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
Both the United Nations (UN) and Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), she said, consider 30 percent as a ‘significant benchmark’ for women’s participation. She noted that in many industrialized and progressive countries, more women visibly occupy positions in government, including seats in parliament and local policymaking bodies. She also cited studies by the UN which correlate democratic and transparent governance with bigger women representation in government.
Cayetano said political parties can play a crucial role to bridge the gender gap in Philippine politics by giving women a better chance of getting elected to public positions.
“It is high time that we increase the representation of women in political parties. Moreover, political parties must espouse women’s issues as part of their party platform. This could help raise awareness and lay the foundations for developing a genuine ‘women’s vote’ in the country,” she said.
“We already had two women presidents and quite a number of women senators. This shows that Filipino voters recognize that women are as capable and qualified to run the affairs of the State and craft laws. But how can we increase women’s representation when only a few of us are actually given the opportunity to run for political office?”
“When you look at slates of political parties during elections, sometimes you’ll see one or maybe two women among their candidates. I don’t believe it is intentional to limit women’s participation, but the fact is, political parties tend to be content with token representation. This has to change,” the senator further said.
Cayetano said women bring a different perspective and approach to governance and can offer alternative solutions to the socioeconomic problems we face.
Giving women this opportunity, she said, is one way of “expanding the choices for the electorate and advancing reforms in our electoral and political system.”
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