Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken great pride in the achievements of the Philippines in advancing gender equality and the role of women.
Speaking during the Global Parliamentary Conference at the World Bank Headquarters on Washington DC, Arroyo said she is proud to be coming from a country with a rich history of progress towards gender equality.
“Historically, the Philippines has been progressive about the role of women in society. On a personal level, I am fortunate that the first Philippine female president, Cory Aquino, paved the way for me, and I became the second Philippine female president,” Arroyo said.
She added that when she was president in 2005, the Philippines was ranked as sixth country in the world that narrowed the gender gap.
“In 2005, when Forbes magazine listed me as the fourth most powerful women in the world, that was memorable for me, not because it reflected on me personally, but because it projected the Philippines, and Filipino women, onto to the world stage. I was President, too, when the World Economic Forum Report ranked my country in 2006 as No. 6 in successfully narrowing the gender gap,” Arroyo said.
But while the Philippines has achieved much in gender equality, more have to be done to protect the rights of women. She said that government intervention through the work of the legislators is decisive to further advancing the role of women.
She cited as examples the government interventions carried out in Iceland, Rwanda and Bangladesh, ranked among top in gender equality. She said in all three countries, laws were enacted to recognize and increase the role of women.
In the Philippines, Arroyo pointed out, even when gender equality is practiced, she still found it necessary to enact the Magna Carta on Filipino Women when she was president.
“My point is: government-based intervention is necessary. A legislator’s first priority to empower women should be to ensure the country’s basic legal platforms. Even in the Philippines, with its history of gender equality, we found it necessary during my Presidency to enact the Magna Carta of Women in 2009,” she said.
She added that legislators like herself should work hand in hand with aid agencies and multilaterals such as the World Bank as well as civil society to foster gender equality in politics and empowerment in the workplace.
She noted five areas of focus - capacity-building to train women to increase their participation in the political life, promotion of women entrepreneurship to expand their market access, encourage young girls to go into careers that are less likely to be automated, increase programs for the protection of Filipina overseas workers and mentoring of younger generation of legislators and leaders to ensure the continuity of efforts towards gender equality.
“What is needed is political will and political skill in our respective legislatures,” Arroyo said.