Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
3rd Higher Education Summit on Gender and Development Issues
28 November 2014 – U.P. Ang Bahay ng Alumni
Our nation has been gaining significant improvements in promoting gender equality. The Philippines has already been recognized as first in the South and Southeast Asia, and fifth in the world in successfully closing the gender gap, based on the 2013 survey of the World Economic Forum.
But even with this recognition, we need to do more. We must build on these gains and continue to improve on our policies to address the new challenges that women are facing in this era of globalization.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2014 provides us with the following global quick facts regarding MDG number 3, Promoting Gender Equality and Empower Women:
· Nations in developing regions have either achieved or were close to achieving gender equality in primary education. But in some regions, girls continue to face disadvantages in entering both primary and secondary school.
· More women hold paid jobs in non-agricultural sectors, but the increase is slow—from 35 percent in 1990, women’s access to paid employment in non-agricultural sectors increased to only 40 percent in 2012.
The safety of women is a continuing concern. In the Philippines, statistics show that 1 out of every 5 Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence. In 2011, 15,104 cases of domestic violence were recorded by the Philippine National Police. This is alarming considering that it is significantly higher than the previous year’s figure of 9,485 cases.
The U.S. Department of State estimates that at least 300,000 women and 60,000 children are trafficked worldwide annually. The Philippines is considered as a source country for individuals subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Furthermore, estimates suggest that 50,000 to 100,000 Filipino women are advertised as mail order brides.
However, we are confident that we will be able to address issues of human trafficking through the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Our law enforcement agencies have been strengthening partnerships with international police groups to crack down on these forms of crimes.
Furthermore, the enactment of the Domestic Workers Act, or the Batas Kasambahay, strengthens protection of Filipino domestic workers here and abroad who are mostly women.
Another challenge to women empowerment is the vulnerability of women to disasters. Women have special needs that make coping with disasters more difficult. Women are also the primary caregivers and carry out much of the household workload after a disaster.
This means that policies should come to terms with the fact that women disproportionately shoulder the brunt of shocks and trends of climate in the face of continued poverty.
The Climate Change Act fully recognizes this as it mandates the identification of the differential impacts of climate change on men, women and children. This legislation recognizes the vulnerability of women as it calls for the integration of a gender-sensitive and pro-poor perspective in all climate change plans and programs.
The Philippines remains deeply committed to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform of Action. Even if we already have a multitude of laws on women empowerment and protection, including the Magna Carta of Women, which was patterned after CEDAW, we continue to search for measures that would address women’s special needs and concerns in this day and age.
Protection of women’s rights is vital in empowering women, because when we are safe from crimes, prejudice and all forms of discrimination, we are more confident to pursue our socio-economic growth.
According to the World Economic Forum, a nation becomes more competitive when it educates its female citizens and makes good use of its female talent. When a nation reduces gender inequality, it enhances productivity and economic growth.
A United Nations report said that in developing countries, 43 percent of agricultural workers are women, and if they are given access to productive resources, this will result to a 20 to 30 percent increase in their farm yield; a national agricultural output that is 2.5 to 4 percent higher; and, a 17 percent decline in the number of people who experience hunger worldwide.
We need to provide women access to capital for micro enterprises for economic empowerment. We need to provide viable income alternatives to women and allow them to participate in livelihood and other economic activities.
The Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act, which gives small enterprises access to credit resources, new technologies and entrepreneurship training programs, and the Barangay Kabuhayan Act, which provides livelihood and skills training programs in fourth, fifth and sixth class municipalities, can enhance the productive capabilities of women and open doors for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, especially in the countryside.
These realities tell us that empowering women is not merely providing privileges to the other half of the population, but more important, it is boosting our chances of realizing our goals towards sustainable development, inclusive growth, and improving the lives of our people.
On this note, I congratulate the Commission on Higher Education, the Philippine Commission on Women and the Civil Service Commission for the launch of the “Higher Education Gender Handbook”. This is an important go-to document for our educators. Gender and Development must be integrated in the curriculum because we cannot protect and empower women unless we educate both male and female citizens on the importance of achieving gender equality.
The fight for gender equality and women empowerment, like any other issue in our society, can only be achieved and will only be successful when all sectors work together. This is not a battle of the sexes. This is an issue of giving equal opportunity to everyone, of providing a chance to all citizens to excel in their chosen discipline, and of letting each and every individual contribute to nation building.
Thank you and good morning.