Empowering the Filipina
The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is designated as the leading gender equality and women empowerment body for every Filipina. H&L sits down with Executive Director Emmeline Verzosa to discuss the Commission’s efforts in addressing gender gaps and inequities, and advocating for women’s rights for all Filipina
By Gelyka Ruth Dumaraos
The days when women are seen only at the sidelines, marginalized, beaten and unheard are now only a thing of the past. Women now have a voice listened to and regarded equally as their male counterpart, and can perform and participate in socio-economic undertakings on the same ground.
In the Philippines, violence against women and their children, and sexual harassment and gender discrimination remain rampant. Lurking in different industries are inappropriate exercise of gender rights, disadvantaging women.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reveals that men dominate the labor force, with a higher percentage of women being unpaid equally as their male counterpart. There is also lack of opportunities for women with lesser prioritization of their needs.
But the Filipino woman has an authoritative voice who can champion for them. The Philippine Commission for Women (PCW) is at the forefront pushing for various gender equality campaigns by serving as a policy-making body with focus on protecting women’s rights.
PCW started as the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, or the NCRFW established on January 7, 1975 during the Martial Law era. NCRFW was the government’s answer to the United Nation’s declaration of Year 1975 as the International Year of Women.
A body responsible for review, evaluation, and recommendation of measures for women for economic, social, and cultural development, it focuses on policy making, planning and programming of all government agencies. Under President Fidel V. Ramos’ administration, NCRFW adopted the 30-year Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (PPGD), which served as the source of gender mainstreaming in the government. It outlines the policies, strategies, programs and projects that the government must adopt to enable women to participate in and benefit from national development. It was adopted as the country’s main vehicle for implementing the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA) and was presented at the 1995 UN 4th World Conference on Women.
During his term, the Gender and Development (GAD) Budget Policy was also institutionalized and its systematic monitoring by virtue of Republic Act 7192.
In this GAD budget, all government agencies were mandated to allocate at least five percent of their total budget for GAD-related projects.
It was in 2009 when NCRFW became the PCW, with the goal of sustaining previous achievements for women empowerment, while continuing to strengthening human rights, promoting women’s economic empowerment and promoting gender-responsive governance.
The Magna Carta of Women (MCW) is by far the landmark law for championing Filipino women’s rights. Signed in 2009, it seeks to eliminate discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting the rights of Filipino women, especially those in marginalized sector.
Since then, other women-related laws have been passed such as the RA 9262: Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children; Republic Act 9775 or Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009; Republic Act 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009; and Republic Act 9208 or Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, among others.
Gender equality promotion
Now at 40 years, PCW continues to be an avenue to touch on critical areas that promote gender equality and women empowerment.
Emmeline Verzosa, Executive Director of PCW, says that PCW focuses on integrating a gender perspective in human rights and development issues that are substantial in furthering the plight of women.
PCW has provided technical assistance on gender mainstreaming among government agencies and Monitors the implementation and use of the GAD Budget.
It also monitors the implementation of the MCW, review of discriminatory laws against women or development of Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda (WPLA), spearheads advocacy activities such as the National Women’s Month Celebration (NWMC) and 18-Day Campaign to End VAW, among others.
The Commission has advocated for the regionalization of MCW through Local GAD Resource Program including partnership and certification of Local Learning Hubs as well as the establishment of the GREAT Women Project. It has also promoted Participation to Inter-Agency Committees relative to Gender and Development.
While PCW is still at it when it comes to gender and development, there is a need to zero in the focus to specific gender issues covering Violence Against Women, Teenage Pregnancy, Women’s Political Participation and Representation, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Women’s Reproductive Health.
GAD is not a war
Gender and development is not a war of the sexes nor anti-male, Dir. Verzosa clarifies. “In fact, both women and men are victims of gender inequality,” she says.
“Although the victims are more often women than men; both women and men have a stake in the struggle for gender equality.”
PCW supports the establishment of GAD programs in various institutions to promote women empowerment and gender equality.
“Gender and Development recognizes gender issues on a sustained basis,” she continues, “and helps integrate women’s and men’s concerns and experiences into the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programs and projects in all political, economic and social agenda.”
Dir. Verzosa adds that through mainstreaming GAD in institutions, gender equality issues are being situated at the center of broad policy decisions, institutional structures and resource allocation, and includes women’s views and priorities in making decisions about development goals and processes.
GAD enables and guides planners and leaders to assess the implications for women and men of such planned government actions as policies, legislation, and programs and projects.
This can be attained through GAD policy, programs, activities, cross-cutting mechanisms, establishing GAD Focal Point System in agencies, public-private sector collaboration, and convergence effort of line agencies.
Dir. Verzosa acknowledges the challenges in driving for GAD programs across all government agencies. However, she believes that strong monitoring and evaluation of GAD programs is key to strengthen the campaigns. There is also a lack of resources including human resources and physical resources and a limited mandate of PCW as oversight agency.
But with all these, Dir. Verzosa is optimistic that we are in a clear path in championing women’s rights in the Philippines.
She finds hope in seeing private and public sectors be in one during Women’s Month and other special occasions for women.
She says, “At least there was a gender synthetizing among the staff and issues are being talked about. There is awareness raising in LGUs and in public and private sectors.”
And while PCW and other women’s group are here to assert women’s rights, Dir. Verzosa reaches out to women and encourage them to claim and demand their rights.
“Know where to seek help in case these rights are being violated,” she concludes. “Know that you are equal with men and encourage others to fight for their rights.”