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Reconceptualizing women empowerment, gender equality

Pursuant to Presidential Proclamations Nos. 224 and 227 and Republic Act No. 6949, the month of March has been designated as, “National Women’s Month.”

Thus, the first week of March each year as “Women’s Week” through Presidential Proclamation No. 224 and March 8 as “Women’s Rights and International Peace Day.”

Though the historical vignettes of the United Nations (UN) Resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1977 declaring March 8 as the “International Women’s Day” (IWD), the Philippines followed suit some 11 years after the passage of the UN Resolution.

Aptly enough, it was during President Corazon Aquino in 1998, the two Presidential Proclamations Nos. 224 and 227, were signed and established for the passage of R.A. 6949 in 1990.

Consequently, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), is the convenor responsible for ensuring the commemoration of these holidays.

This year’s month-long celebration, the feminist organization has already sounded the clarion call for women’s empowerment and gender equality making it louder towards a concrete, sustainable and inclusive actions.

“All government agencies, including local government units, private institutions, civil society organizations, academe are enjoined to help address the continuing and emerging issues that hamper women’s empowerment and gender equality.”

Conversely, women empowerment was clearly pronounced during the 1995 4th UN World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, when 189 governments signed a historic road map, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

 It focused on 12 critical areas of concern: 1) women and poverty; 2) education and training of women; 3) women and health; 4) violence against women; 5) women and armed conflict; 6) women and the economy; 7) women in power and decision-making; 8) institutional mechanisms; 9) human rights of women; 10) women and media; 11) women and the environment; 12) the girl child.

What is the score so far? This celebration traces its roots in different movements in the 1990’s particularly the tragic incident in the US claiming the lives of 140 working women died in a fire at a factory in New York, March 25, 1911.

“This brought to light the unfair labor practice and inhumane working conditions that women workers face and led to several rallies. Then in 1913, the Socialist Women’s International Conference recommended March 8, to be the IWD.

It was only in 1975, the UN formally designated March 8 as the day of celebration.

Bringing the issue home. Sadly, the Philippines has failed to improve in giving women equal economic opportunities, with the pandemic reinforcing gender inequalities among countries, according to the World Bank report.

The financial institution in its latest report stated, the country scored 78.8 out of 100 on the “Women, Business and Law (WBL) 2021 index. This is lower than the 81.3 average score the country got in the previous year, added the report.

Due to the pandemic, the WB noted that it has contributed to a rise in both the severity and frequency of gender-based violence.

Noting the importance of the issue, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is urging the Duterte administration for the immediate ratification of ILO Convention 190 on gender-based violence and harassment at the workplace.

This year’s IWD is anchored on the theme, Women in Leadership. Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World. And the country’s slogan for the month-long celebration, Juana Laban sa Pandemya, Kaya!