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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Dr. Amaryllis T. Torres
Commissioner, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Informal Thematic Debate of the General Assembly Promotion of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 6-7 March 2007
Madam President, Excellencies:
At the outset, allow me to convey our congratulations to you, Madam President, for organizing this important debate on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 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, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Millennium Development Goals. We affirm the values and principles adopted by the General Assembly in the World Summit of 2005, 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.
The Framework Plan for Women serves as the gender equality framework of the present government. Its key components are the promotion of women’s human rights, the promotion of women’s economic empowerment, and the development of gender-responsive governance. Substantial gains have been attained in these areas, for example: in terms of legislations that enhance the rights of women in different disadvantaged situations; executive policies and instrumental mechanisms in support of gender mainstreaming at all levels of governance, and fuller representation of women in key decision-making assemblies, including rural, minority and indigenous women. Nonetheless, the attainment of gender equality in all spheres of national life remains a challenge.
Challenges in Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment
Women’s labor force participation continues to lag behind that of men. Gender role stereotypes, particularly in relation to reproductive responsibilities, have prevented more women from entering the labor force. Those who do work in the local economy are often found in the informal labor sector or in jobs that are insecure, lowly-paid, and take little advantage of women’s formal education. Globalization trends have led to the demise of economic activities that formerly supported low-income women producers in agriculture and rank-and-file employees in manufacturing. Educated women employed in ICT outsourcing establishments find themselves in iniquitous positions: de-skilling in exchange for relatively higher wages, little or no time for family and leisure, and emerging health problems related to conditions and terms of work.
In the face of economic difficulties at home, a significant number of skilled Filipino women have opted to work abroad as migrant labor. But even while they may receive higher wages in destination countries, our overseas Filipino women workers often experience de-skilling and marginalization, and are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.
It is in the context of this challenge to promote the economic empowerment of women that the Philippine government has now harnessed the cooperation of different government agencies, NGOs and the private sector in programs to enhance the entrepreneurial capacities of women, in work that enable them to obtain a fair market share, both in the local economy as well as in global trade.
Challenges in Advancing Women’s Rights
A significant number of statutes that address gender problems have been put into place. These include legislations that protect women against rape, all forms of violence against women and children, and trafficking. While we are proud of the gains in promoting women’s rights that have been achieved because of these laws, traditional gender notions of male dominance and female subordination continue to impede the full realization of women’s rights, including in the justice system. In this respect, we are continuing to devise different strategies to transform the gender values of judges, lawyers, social workers and other public service providers who may be involved in the implementation of these laws.
We find that violations of women’s rights are rooted in gender inequality but intersect with class, generation and identity, and are exacerbated by poverty and conflict situations. For example, women who are economically dependent on their spouses or parents opt to withdraw charges leveled against perpetrators of VAWC. Girl-children are cowed into obedience and endure physical and sexual abuse at the hands of male relatives. Rural and minority women continue to be socialized into cultures of silence while men flaunt their dominance over the bodies and voices of women.
Situations of un-peace, conflict, natural and human-made disasters have also led to rights violations. Women and girls have become vulnerable to rape and trafficking. Women dislocated from their homes been deprived of human security: loss of homes, basic services, and food, if not fear from attack, abuse and loss of liberty.
To correct this situation, new projects are being introduced to eliminate traditional gender stereotypes. Changes are slowly being introduced in the curricula of both basic formal education and non-formal education. Alliances in the media are being developed so that gender-equal messages and images can become features of print and audio-visual productions. Dialogues are being undertaken with minority groups in order to transform their gender constructs into gender-equality values. Men in positions of influence have recently been organized as gender advocates.
The fate of internally displaced refugee women and children is an area that requires closer examination and the development of more creative programs and interventions. In this effort, we aim to mobilize multi-sectoral responses, including those of organized local women.
Advancing Gender-Responsive Governance
Our Constitution provides for the representation of women in the Lower House, or Congress, as a social sector. Women have organized as political parties and have successfully been elected into office for the past five elections. Despite this, women remain largely a minority in local and national elective positions. A “women’s vote” remains a dream in the Philippines, and considerable lobbying from civil society has been necessary to get political candidates to include gender concerns in their platforms.
Our efforts to influence governance has been more successful in terms of mainstreaming gender planning in local governments, and is well-supported by statutes and executive policies that mandate the formulation of GAD Plans through the utilization of GAD Budgets. NGOs have
also launched projects that orient and sensitize women legislators to gender issues that impact on their constituencies, which have reaped favorable results for women. But, given the complex political subdivisions in our democracy, much more remains to be done.
Excellencies, we are painfully aware that the attainment of women’s empowerment and gender equality is a difficult and arduous task. We look forward to the outcomes of this debate, including, in particular, the ways and means of scaling up progress in the implementation of our commitments for women. In this regard, we welcome plans to replace several weak structures now in place at the UN with a consolidated gender entity. Such an entity would have strong normative and programmatic functions, and would have presence in member states that require assistance in pushing forward the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment. We also look forward to enhancing cooperation with the members of this Assembly, the various UN and international agencies, as well as civil society, in our quest to hasten the full realization of Filipino women’s human rights and development.
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