Privilege Speech of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda on Women’s Month

March 25, 2021

Privilege Speech of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda

Women’s Month

25 March 2021



Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues,


As the observance of this year’s National Women’s Month draws to a close, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege to draw special attention to the country’s potential in leading the global effort to achieve gender equality and women economic empowerment.


The Philippines has been consistently in the top 10 out of 153 countries in the gender equality rankings since the World Economic Forum launched its annual Global Gender Gap Report in 2006 until 2018. However, in the 2020 report findings of the WEF, the Philippines’ rank has dropped 8 notches falling out of the top 10, from 8th in 2018 to 16th in 2020. Despite the slip, this is still something to be proud of given that we are the best performing country in Asia for closing gender gap, followed by Laos at rank 43.


The Geneva-based organization measures the annual gender gap index in 4 key areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.


The Philippines has closed 78% of our overall gender gap, showing good performance in three out of four key areas. The report showed that we have closed 80% of the labor force gap, with women outnumbering men in senior and leadership roles, as well as in professional and technical professions. Whereas, we have closed gender gaps in both educational attainment and health and survival. There is, however, a considerable widening of the political empowerment gap, which is attributed to the low female representation in Philippine Congress and in the Cabinet.[1]


Such reports should serve as a challenge for us to further strengthen our women empowerment measures and initiatives. We have already passed landmark laws on women’s rights and empowerment – from the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Child Labor Law, to the passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and its expanded version, which was the first anti-trafficking law in South East Asia, among other related laws and policies.


Despite our effort to eliminate various forms of violence, discrimination and abuse among women, it is still alarming to know that, based on the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), one in four Filipino women age 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence from their husband or partner and most of them chose to stay silent primarily because, they themselves rely on the financial support of their husbands, partners, parents or other relatives.


It is time for us to provide more opportunities for women in education, in the workplace, in rural development, in governance and leadership roles. We must also give equal importance in providing women better access and control over resources that they need to be empowered economically. Let us give them the financial independence and confidence to generate their own income. Let us empower our women to make use of their skills and talents by providing them viable income alternatives, trainings, and opportunities for start-ups for those who want to be entrepreneurs.


In my effort to promote the important role that our women play in pursuing economic development, I collaborated with the UN Women WeEmpower Asia Philippines in the conduct of a dialogue with different women organizations to provide a venue for them to share their respective dynamics, programs and challenges.


Through this dialogue, I was able to understand their concerns and find ways to provide support and assistance in order for them to flourish and thrive even more. Their persistence and resourcefulness gave me hope that by bringing government programs such as the Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) closer to them, we will be able to provide them long-term solutions to help alleviate poverty in the areas they serve while giving the members of these organizations the opportunity to maximize their capabilities and achieve their full potential.




For this month, we also dedicated the episodes of  my weekly online show, Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways, to women in different sectors and highlight their contribution to economic development, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, agricultural development and national pandemic recovery.


In one of the episodes, we invited Filipina coffee enthusiasts to discuss the state of the local coffee industry and its challenges and opportunities amid the pandemic. In the Philippines, where agriculture is mostly dominated by men and only 16% are women based on the statistics of the PSA in 2012, we have to increase appreciation and support for the women coffee producers who continuously uplift the coffee culture in the country.


Our female coffee farmers and all our women in the agriculture sector also perform labor-intensive tasks like men do, but they are usually deprived with the same assistance, income, and salary.


I am hoping that through our initiatives to give them the platform to share their accomplishments, challenges, and even grievances, women in the agriculture sector will be given equal access to education, agricultural training, tools and technologies, credit and financing, markets, and legal rights to help improve their decision-making skills.


One of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end hunger and malnutrition. I believe that women’s participation in agriculture and rural development can be a way to further advance the campaign against hunger and better nutrition for all.


In another Stories for a Better Normal episode, we invited women champions of resilience to put a spotlight on the innovative work of women in building disaster-resilient communities.


As a United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (formerly UNISDR) Global Champion for Resilience myself, I am grateful to know that more women are now treading the path of climate action,  resilience and sustainable development.


Petra Kelly, who was a founding member of the German Green Party, says that “While men’s revolutions have often been about dying for a cause, feminist conceived transformation is about daring to live for a cause.”  Women have the ability to lead their communities towards resilience. When we empower women to ensure that they are able to adapt to climate and disaster risks and be leaders and active communicators in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, we do not only prevent them from becoming victims of disasters, but we are also enabling them to be champions of resilience.


We must design adaptation programs for women in food security, invest in gender-sensitive green technologies, empower women in disaster risk reduction efforts, ensure that women and girls have access to clean water and renewable energy, provide basic health opportunities, and harness the strength of women in reducing social vulnerability.


Moreover, I also encourage more women to help preserve our culture and tradition by engaging in culture-based livelihoods, which I have always advocated, such as weaving and crafts-making using resources that are abundant in their respective areas such as bamboo, abaca, coconut, buri, shells and other raw materials.


Since my first term as a legislator, I have been supporting women entrepreneurs, especially those who uphold culture and tradition. We have supported before the TESDA Women Center Alumni Association (TWCAA), which trains women in entrepreneurship and livelihood skills. We also have the Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs), under the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), which make sure that a community’s art and indigenous practices are protected and conserved.


In 2012, we launched the Hibla Pavilion of Textiles and Weaves of the Philippines, which opened doors of opportunity to weaving communities and SLTs to showcase their indigenous products and weaving traditions.


In recognition of the vital role of our micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in economic growth and poverty alleviation, we have bridged our MSMEs to the national and global market by giving them the opportunity to participate in the National Arts and Crafts Fair of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other crafts fair.


In promoting and supporting MSMEs and culture-related enterprises such as weaving, which many women in rural areas and indigenous communities do, we will be able to make traditional industries economically viable while also preserving our heritage, boosting tourism and strengthening trade.


As author and sponsor of of laws on livelihood assistance such as the Magna Carta for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises and the Barangay Kabuhayan and Skills Training Act, I encourage Filipino women to avail of other national programs such as the DTI Shared Service Facilities (SSF) program, DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), as well as DOST Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology (CEST), DOLE Pangkabuhayan, among others, to assist your needs towards financial independence.


This is also what I emphasized in the Message of Commitment that I delivered at the Side Event of the 65th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) yesterday, where we talked about unpaid care and domestic work.  For the longest time, we have taken for granted care and domestic work, usually done out of filial love, generously given and considered part of our duties to our families and communities.  In partnership with UN Women, the Philippine Commission of Women and other partner organizations, I committed to work on programs and measures that will begin to put long-deserved value to these labors and ensuring their recognition, reduction, redistribution, rewarding and representation within the national and local policy-making and budgeting sphere.

Lastly, to ensure that our country goes beyond the ranking prestige brought by the Global Gender Gap Report and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to maintain gender equality and promote women economic empowerment, I have filed a resolution calling for the conduct of inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the implementation of pertinent women related laws and policies in line with the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. This is to further promote and safeguard the equitable economic opportunities, rights and benefits for women in the vulnerable basic sectors; the barangay micro business enterprises (BMBE); and the micro and small enterprises, social enterprises, and cooperatives.


Let us champion equality and inclusivity in our society’s decision-making processes not only during the Women’s month. Let us continue to provide women the needed support to have the confidence and wherewithal to lead and be at the forefront of efforts to improve Filipino communities and pursue initiatives that will contribute decisive actions towards the nation’s sustainable and equitable progress.


Thank you very much.