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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
Dr. Amaryllis T. Torres
Commissioner, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women

50th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
United Nations, New York
1 March 2006


Madame Chair,

The Philippines aligns itself with the statement made by South Africa on behalf of the G77 & China.

At the outset, let me thank you and the Commission for the opportunity to address this august body on themes that intersect the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action with those of the CEDAW, the Millennium Development Goals, and the values articulated in the World Summit of 2005.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines reiterates its unwavering commitment to the continued and enhanced implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. We subscribe to the view advanced at the 2005 World Summit that gender equality is integral to the promotion and protection of the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. We affirm our commitment to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and acknowledge that the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world, and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are the basic goals of our Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development. Its significance in our national life is highlighted by the fact that no less that the President of the Republic issued an Executive Order in 1995 for its full implementation by all government agencies, and at all levels of governance.

This afternoon, I am pleased to share with you the highlights of recent undertakings that have made a major impact in ensuring a favorable environment for women’s development:

An enabling environment for Filipino women

First, concerted efforts have been undertaken by our national machinery, along with other oversight agencies of government, to provide the enabling policies and mechanisms so that national departments and local governments may be able to address gender concerns in their separate spheres of development planning, governance, and public administration. Today, we find government departments immersed in the implementation of gender-responsive programs and services, either as separate activities or as part of their regular programs and projects. In many local governments, gender-responsive plans are being formulated and implemented with the direct participation of women – involving them as legislators, government personnel, or as members of organized women’s groups in local GAD councils.

Second, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women has led the way towards the collection and dissemination of gender statistics in all areas of governance. Improvement of data and information in this area supports our gender mainstreaming efforts, especially in relation to the needs of poor and marginalized women. Sex-disaggregation of data facilitates the design and implementation of gender-responsive policies and interventions, and provides the bases for more systematically monitoring the progress of all our efforts for attaining human rights, peace and human security, and sustainable human development.

Third, there has been significant effort in promoting the gender perspective in education. Public school curricula and instructional materials have been made more gender-fair and gender-responsive, emphasizing the need for gender-fair socialization and equity in gender roles. Gender-responsive curricula, textbooks and other instructional materials have been developed for higher education, so that more of these institutions have begun to integrate gender perspectives in their courses and offer programs on women’s studies. Gender Resource Centers equipped with trained staff and tools for gender mainstreaming have been established in public and private universities around the country, and serve as the partners of regional offices and local governments for gender mainstreaming at the community level.

Fourth, government has made gender-responsive entrepreneurship development a keystone for poverty elimination, targeting a sizable sector of women engaged in informal sector labor. It has mobilized both the public and private sectors to provide financial assistance and enhance the capacities of women to participate gainfully in the labor force. At the same time, women’s groups and gender-sensitive trade unions work relentlessly to ensure that existing labor laws are implemented fully, in order to advance the rights and improve the conditions of work of working women. Meanwhile, efforts continue to be made to sensitize women business leaders to gender issues in the workplace, giving rise to several networks of women entrepreneurs and managers of large corporations that regularly interact with gender advocates in the nation, within APEC and with gender-aware women business leaders in developed nations.
Fifth, substantial efforts have been undertaken to promote women’s health. The legal framework on reproductive health and population management is being improved to ensure better protection of the lives of mothers and children, decrease sexual health risks among the youth, educate the public on the realities of HIV/AIDS, and promote sustainable human development. In compliance with the Beijing Platform for Action, the government’s health department has earmarked a third of its investment plan for women’s health. Health services have also been devolved to local governments, thus enabling them to directly use national revenue for health care strategies and programs attuned to the gender needs of their constituents. Moreover, health care professionals are getting better trained to become more gender-responsive.

Sixth, the elimination of discrimination of women and the protection of their dignity and rights in all fields remains the bedrock of the government’s gender promotion efforts. Legislation is constantly being revisited and assessed, and several women’s formations have committed themselves to ensuring that more and more rights are assured by law within a gender-fair perspective. A good number of local legislatures have promulgated GAD Codes for their respective cities or provinces, translating global and national imperatives into local laws applicable to their unique situations. In all cases, gender-responsive legislations aim to fulfill the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action, the CEDAW, the International Declaration on Human Rights, the Millennium Development Goals and other international instruments and agreements. Furthermore, government agencies providing direct service to the populace are increasingly being evaluated against performance standards and assessment tools that focus on the adequacy of responses to violence against women and the elimination of gender discrimination.

Women’s participation in decision-making

Madame Chair,

It is through women’s presence in political processes in various levels of governance that we can hope to formulate and implement effective gender-sensitive policies on development, sustainable peace and governance.

In my country, we are seeing the impact of empowering women at the local levels. Gender-sensitive women’s groups often serve as the catalyst and the first resource for gender mainstreaming in local governance. Through their committed advocacy and networking activities, we now find different sectors of women represented in local government planning, who become directly involved in the formulation of local-level strategic plans for gender-fair and gender responsive governance and, sometimes, act as the lead implementors of GAD plans, as well. More and more local chief executives have been given training and orientation on gender planning, budgeting and mainstreaming processes. Shortly before this meeting commenced, the League of Lady Municipal Mayors in the Philippines were completing a ten-year strategic plan on gender-fair and gender-responsive governance.

In the national government, the NCRFW serves as the primary catalyst for enlarging the spaces for women’s participation in governance. Its work within government has led to the integration of gender in the Philippines’ Medium-Term Development Plan, the development of guidelines for the incorporation of gender concerns in investment plans, the formulation of gender indicators in performance-based budgeting, the establishment of GAD Focal Points in cabinet-level departments and their instrumentalities, the gender sensitization of the judiciary, the conscious efforts of multi-lateral and bilateral agencies to incorporate gender in their country cooperation strategies, and the collaboration with government of gender advocates from academe, media, the private sector and civil society on issues and platforms of mutual concern.

At this juncture in its social history, when the Philippines is on the verge of constitutional reform, we also witness organized women ready to influence constitution change, prepared with draft provisions that aim to more fully incorporate gender equality and gender mainstreaming concerns in the basic law of the land.

Addressing incoherence in policies and actions

Madame Chair,

Perhaps two of the starkest challenges to progress for women is the lack of coherence between policy and implementation, as well as between gender equality policies and development strategies. Relatedly, there is also a need to urgently address situations wherein development policies exacerbate rather than abate women’s economic and social burdens as they struggle to deal with their productive and reproductive roles in the family and in the community. For example, structural adjustment policies often result in increased burdens for women, as public services are withdrawn. Economic programs linked to globalization are often associated with insecure work arrangements for women workers, exploitative relations of production, subsistence-level wages, and the denial of the workers’ right to organize. Agricultural modernization often means the trivialization or elimination of women’s role in production, relegating them to the status of unpaid family workers, the end result of which is the increased immiseration of rural women.

We dare say that this ironic twist in the gender impacts of development constitutes a challenge to gender mainstreaming in national life. If we fail to match our activities with gender interests, and our gender goals are reversed by overall development impacts, then current gender mainstreaming efforts may have missed out on critical elements and areas for success. At this juncture, we have heard and learned from the rich experiences of countries in their work on gender equality and development. We therefore stress the indispensable role of the Commission in providing a forum for countries to see how they can learn from and cooperate with all stakeholders—other governments, relevant UN agencies and international organizations, academics, the media, the private sector, political parties and organized women’s groups, among them -- to ensure that we truly advance towards gender equality.

Addressing the issue of gender and migration

Madame Chair,

Today we live in an environment that is characterized by the increased mobility of persons across national borders—and the increasing feminization of migration. Because of the importance that the Philippines attaches to this phenomenon, significant efforts at the policy and program levels have been made by government to ensure that women, both those who migrate and those left at home, are able to effectively benefit from this movement.

Since the time that overseas labor migration became a hallmark of Philippine labor and employment policy, our government has put into place mechanism to ensure that, throughout the process of migration, the rights of women migrant workers are protected. Unfortunately, we have not always been successful, and there have been numerous documented cases when our poor women have become victims of harassment and abuse, sometimes resulting in serious physical injuries, mental derangement, or worse, in their deaths. Overseas migration has also been a camouflage for the trafficking of women, and many young Filipinas in search of better economic opportunities have found themselves instead in abusive situations.

In response to these issues, and pursuant to agreements arrived at in International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, the Philippine government has endeavored to provide timely and useful information associated with migration, particularly to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of women and girls. In another vein, government acknowledges the significant contribution of overseas remittances to the economy and has been giving increasing attention to its gender dimensions.

We are pleased to note the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on violence against women migrant workers that recognizes, among others, the critical importance of international collaboration to ensure the protection of women migrants’ rights. We also look forward to the panel discussion on the gender dimensions of international migration to be held tomorrow afternoon and anticipate that it would provide an important contribution to the High-Level Conference on International Migration in September 2006.

Thank you and good afternoon.

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