Message of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda: National Women’s Month

March 8, 2023

Message of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda
National Women’s Month
March 8, 2023

Mr. President, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

Mga kaibigan at kabaro, ilang taon ba natin uulit-ulitin ang mga panawagan natin tungkol sa pagiging patas, sa pag-aalis ng diskriminasyon at sa pagpapantay ng mga pagkakataon?

How many ways can you say these buzzwords and remain relevant? In communications, there is such a thing as desensitization. Eventually, individuals and maybe even societies zone out on the same things repeated year after year.

Thankfully, this year, the UN decided that the theme will be something rather fresh. DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality was chosen for 2023.

Stephanie Sy, Founder and CEO of Thinking Machines Data Science and 2019 TOWNS awardee when she was just 30 years old, marveled at how the world has transformed in just ten years since she was 20 years old. In her interview with Tatler, she says “Tech is a huge disruptor… most of the societal changes of the last 10 years have been because of tech. If I had to guess, I would say the next 10 will be about climate change”.

I believe it will be women, whose shackles have been cut, that will innovate to carry us through the climate crisis. They will be the ones inventing the mechanisms and the means to keep the homes humming in the midst of the calamities and challenges and they will find a way.

The intersection of these two disruptors cannot be overemphasized. Technology has increased connectivity among people in ways we could not have imagined. A solution can catch like wildfire, being adopted by millions of people once it spreads. But like any tool, it can be misused or blunted. What we may need to do is use technology for better policy making— inform ourselves of conclusions to be derived from Big Data in order to surgically address the issues that beset us. The world has changed so much that solutions that worked just a few years ago might no longer be on point.

There are, of course, some prescriptions that remain the same —

– Reducing tobacco prevalence, which we have been able to do by a few percentage points over the last 8 or so years,

– Increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates, which while far from the 50% target of the WHO is already higher than previous rates,

– Keeping girls in school, is problematic due to the pandemic but prior to it was mostly due to teenage pregnancy, averaging 200 thousand per year.

But some might surprise us. When I first heard about unpaid or underpaid work, I realized that it was an issue that was invisible to me. It is difficult to imagine the true monetary value of the hands that patted your bottom as a child to put you to sleep, the ones that scoured gardens and markets for what to put on the table, the feet that trudged kilometers to fetch water, the grandmother that raised her grandkids. I suppose monetizing this has not been foremost on the agenda, partly because it is priceless. But that recognition of its pricelessness has prevented our society from addressing this gap with policy. The advocates for valuing unpaid work have come up with five Rs as our to-do list. We must recognize it, reduce such labor by helping make such work easier and more efficient, redistribute the burden by having others help, actually rewarding such work, and finally representing the sector, giving them a voice.

The lesson to be learned here is from Albert Einstein — “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Climate change and the pandemic have afforded us the opportunity to look for new solutions, innovate, frame our issues differently and perhaps find the tipping point where we have not been looking before.

Until we are able to think of our situation in an integrated manner, with feedback loops for every drawn scenario, and using the digital tools available to us, we will be left with solutions that are tried and tested but too slow to matter.

Simple lang po ang ibig sabihin niyan. Ang mga hamon ng ating panahon ay magkadugtong at ang paglampas natin dito ay nangangailangan ng lakas ng lahat ng bisig, at ng kolektibang kaisipan. Kapag naiwan ang kababaihan sa tahaking ito ay hindi tayo makakarating sa kabila.

Thank you, Mr. President.