Message: DAR National Women’s Month Kick-off

March 4, 2024

Message of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
DAR National Women’s Month Kick-off
March 4, 2024

We stand united in kicking off the celebration of Women’s Month today at the Department of Agrarian Reform Central Office.

While the Philippines stands proud as a leader in gender equality in South and Southeast Asia, ranking 16th out of 146 countries in 2023’s Gender Gap Index, this was actually an 8-notch drop from 2018. We need to be continuously mindful in our quest for an inclusive and equitable society.

As a four-term senator, I authored and sponsored relevant laws to protect and empower women, such as:

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to protect women and children against trafficking, prostitution, and slavery, amended in 2012 to include harsher penalties against violators and to address the new challenges brought by human trafficking, such as online sexual exploitation; The Magna Carta of Women, patterned after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which sets the framework for policies for the protection of women by guaranteeing social, economic, civil and political rights of women; and the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act to protect women and children against domestic violence and abuse.

Even with these laws in place, it is crucial to keep a tight watch on the implementation, to acknowledge the evolving needs of women in a globalized world and to remain committed to enhancing our policies and programs towards gender equity.

I wish to acknowledge the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council for flagging this gender issue several years back, using the lens of their own composition, with a ratio of 21 men for every one woman in the national and provincial committees and 5 men for every woman at the Barangay level. As of 2019, only 28% of all agrarian reform awardees were women. We cannot and must not only wait every March to address these.

The Philippines, as an agricultural country traditionally dominated by men, should acknowledge the strength, perseverance, and aspirations of countless women who contribute to our agricultural landscape. They are burdened with unpaid home duties like the preparation of the food of all the farmworkers. They are also relegated to the lower paying work within the sector and not normally considered in the higher paying work such as plowing, land preparation and use of farm equipment. The very design of farm equipment would need to be gender friendly.

In the Philippines, a Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) study found that women occupy merely 26 percent of the agricultural employment in the country.

Women are key players in our fight against hunger and malnutrition, yet they face systemic barriers that limit their potential. Despite their significant participation in the agricultural sector, women are often marginalized, with limited access to resources, education, and decision-making opportunities. We must address these disparities, recognizing women’s unpaid and undervalued contributions in agriculture and ensuring they have equal access to the tools and economic opportunities they need to thrive. Overcoming women’s marginalization and giving them financial independence are imperatives for the entire sector the thrive.

As your representation in the Senate, I will continue to advocate and empower women in agriculture, in the economy, and all areas of life by recognizing their strengths, addressing their challenges, and providing them with the opportunities they deserve, creating a more resilient, inclusive, and equitable Philippines.

Happy Women’s Month! Thank you at isang Luntiang Pilipinas sa lahat.