Message: DHSUD National Women’s Month Celebration

March 6, 2024

Message of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
DHSUD National Women’s Month Celebration
March 6, 2024 | 10:30 AM | DHSUD Auditorium

Happy Women’s Month to all of us gathered here today. I am happy to be part of this celebration, especially as the principal author behind the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.

I am delighted to learn that the Department boasts a robust female workforce, with 436 out of 798 regular employees being women. This statistic proves the unwavering commitment of the Department to the Gender and Development (GAD) policy, which strives to champion women’s rights, promote gender equality, and foster their empowerment within the field of housing and urban development.

As a legislator, I have authored and sponsored laws safeguarding women’s social, economic, civil, and political rights, such as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and its amended version, The Magna Carta of Women, and the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act. I also championed the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Law, and the Barangay Livelihood and Skills Training Act that underscore our commitment to enhancing women’s well-being, livelihood, and financial stability.

In the current Congress, I’ve introduced key legislation to empower and protect women across various sectors, which include the Dignity for Women Deprived of Liberty Act which defines and upholds the rights of incarcerated women while providing necessary funding for enforcement; the Gender Responsive and Inclusive Emergency Management Act of 2023 that establishes protocols tailored to women’s needs during crises, such as pandemics and disasters; and the Women and Children Protection Units Act that institutionalizes specialized units in government hospitals to offer support to women and children facing violence.

The Philippines has always been recognized among the top countries for gender equality in South and Southeast Asia. In 2023, we ranked 16th out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. That is not a bad ranking but note that this was an 8-notch drop from 2018. We must remain vigilant to prevent any further decline.

Every March, as we renew our commitments to improve the lives of women, it is important to recognize that just talking about women’s rights isn’t enough – we also need to make real changes happen. This celebration serves more than just a tribute to women; it is a moment to highlight the often-overlooked contributions of women, particularly on unpaid care work, and the qualities of nurturing and home management inherent in all individuals, irrespective of gender.

It is also important to integrate gender considerations into our resilience and adaptation efforts, especially in the face of climate change and natural disasters. Women are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and are instrumental in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. By empowering women to actively participate in climate action and disaster risk reduction initiatives, and removing discriminatory barriers, we can build more resilient and sustainable communities for future generations.

The challenges of modern society have made the mental load of home management more and more challenging. We should also recognize that unpaid care work, predominantly shouldered by women, plays a crucial role in sustaining families and communities. This underscores the importance of initiatives like the Unpaid Care Workers Welfare Act, which I also filed in the 19th Congress, aimed at alleviating the unequal burden of unpaid care work to advance gender equality and ensure the well-being of all individuals. In your department, which focuses on shelter, it’s crucial to understand the complex dynamic wherein women are both oppressed and empowered. By acknowledging and addressing this, we can work towards creating a more equitable society where the advancement of women translates to progress for everyone.

As a society, we will only meet our goals under SDG 5: Gender Equality and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities if we start at home. Empowering women with the opportunities and resources to make wise decisions within their households and giving them financial independence will usher in a future where all genders aspire to share and celebrate equal roles and decisions in the home.

This self-awareness that begins at home can then translate into the representation of women in urban design, planning-related decision-making, and professional and leadership roles. By integrating gender perspectives into these processes, cities can develop comprehensive strategies addressing safety, food and water security, and waste reduction.

I challenge the men and women of DHSUD to see within their mandates not just the provision of roofs over heads but systems and design that reflect these principles. When we begin to recognize that these qualities are often linked with femininity, we will see that embracing them doesn’t diminish men’s roles but rather help shape a future where everyone benefits, emphasizing the importance of gender equality in nation-building.

Again, Happy Women’s month at isang luntiang Pilipinas sa ating lahat!