March marks the Women’s Month celebration, and it’s time to further empower women once again!
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE EMBASSY OF SWEDEN IN MANILA
Last March 8, females in the Philippines were put on the spotlight at the 2019 International Women’s Day Summit, which raised the level of discourse on women’s rights and representation.
Held at SM Aura Samsung Hall, the summit was spearheaded by NGO Spark! (Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran) and the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines, in partnership with the Embassies of Austria and Sweden, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (UPCWGS). It brought together the country’s most powerful women and their allies to further promote the fight for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Vice President Leni Robredo noted the efforts of the government to advance women empowerment, citing the newly signed Expanded Maternity Leave (which grants 105 days of maternity leave for women) as well as the Telecommuting Act (which institutionalizes a work-from-home arrangement, benefiting especially mothers).
However, she also said not to set aside the dark stories women still experience in the country. “For as long as one woman gets threatened in the dark, raped, and blamed for it, and suffer because ‘babae lang naman’ then we have no right to rest. When our leaders joke about rape and normalize abuse, shouldn’t we be alarmed? When reports say that one out of two women did nothing after they were harassed, and a lot of those chose to stay silent out of fear, shouldn’t we be more scared?” She said.
“To all the women, nurture the power within you and let it grow. It is the same power that will propel you to greater heights, and the same power that will let you move mountains. This is your time,” the vice president added.
With the theme “Advancing the Rights and Representation of Filipino Women,” the summit highlighted key issues with three panel discussions: “Towards a World Without Violence: Ending Violence Against Women (VAW)”, “Breaking Barriers: Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment” and “Magnifying Women’s Voices and Participation: Creating an Equal World.”
The panel discussions were a call to challenge barriers hindering women’s collective progress, as they provided a platform to collectively reflect on remarkable achievements made toward women’s empowerment and gender equality despite persistent discrimination in many communities and workplaces. It also offered an opportunity to discuss innovative solutions to enhance men’s meaningful engagement to achieve gender equality.
Opened by Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries, some of the summit’s panel included Vice President Leni Robredo (the event’s keynote speaker), Austrian Ambassador Bita Rasoulian, and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who focused on women’s empowerment in male-dominated fields.
Other notable panelists included Kat Alano of EMPOWER (an organization that advocates against rape) for the panel discussion on VAW, Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles of UPCWGS, and Filipina designer Zarah Juan for the panel discussion on women’s economic empowerment.