President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Filipinos to uplift women by rejecting the backward attitude that has created a culture of gender oppression and inequality to women in his National Women’s Month message on Monday.
“I call on the public to elevate women to their rightful place in society. Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina to break not only the barriers that have long hindered them from reaching their full potential but also the backward mindset that fuelled a culture of gender oppression and inequality,” Duterte said.
The President, who has been criticized for his sexist remarks, also encouraged every Filipino to join their fellow countrymen in celebrating what he called the indispensable role of women in the nation's progress by participating in this month-long celebration and supporting advocacies that seek to fight for and acknowledge the inalienable rights of women as equal partners of men.
The Chief Executive also said international organizations, women's rights movements, and various governments have worked together and made significant strides in addressing gender inequality by dealing with its cultural, institutional, and historical roots, but stressed that the fight was far from over.
National Women’s Month is observed every March, with this year’s theme as “Juana Laban sa Pandemya: Kaya!”
"While there is still much to be done to completely free women from this bondage of inequality, we can nonetheless proudly claim that concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions have been taken by our government to create an environment where women's rights are respected and their contributions to society are recognized," he added.
Vice President Leni Robredo, the first woman to be elected to her post, affirmed in her statement the strength of women on International Women’s Day, adding “we celebrate the years of tireless struggle that our foremothers went through so that the women of today have wider pathways to empowerment.
“There is much to be proud of: The right to vote, improved economic and political participation, and stronger legislation protecting women’s rights embody a world that has become more gender-equal over the past several generations.
“Despite these gains however, the road remains long. The realities on the ground paint a picture that remains far from ideal. Cases of domestic violence continue to rise. Under the shadow of the pandemic, reproductive health services have been hampered, and lockdowns have trapped survivors at home with their abusers, with little in terms of a lifeline to the outside world.”
Meanwhile, a female legislator has pushed for the enactment of a bill banning child marriage.
House Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera, principal author of House Bill 1486, made the call as the nation celebrates the International Women's Day on March 8.
The bill, she said, would ensure that “all Filipino children—boys and especially girls—will have the opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential, and the chance to decide when and with whom to marry.”
Herrera first filed the bill during the 17th Congress, but it had not progressed then, prompting her to re-file the measure in 2019.
The proposed legislation is now with the House Committee on Justice.
However, Herrera has spoken to the Committee on Rules and requested that it be referred to the Committee on Women considering that it is one of the top priorities in the women’s agenda of the legislative chamber.
This developed as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco praised the women leaders and employees of the House of Representatives who helped keep the legislative mill running so Congress could continue to pass pieces of legislation that respond to the needs of the people amid the pandemic.
“Allow me to recognize all the strong, empowered and empowering women of the House. We fought and continue fighting the pandemic because you kept everything steady here at work even as you faced the challenges with your families at home,” Velasco said as he also paid tribute to all women of the Philippines "for their pivotal role in nation-building even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic."
At present, women make up 48 percent of the House workforce.
Records from the chamber’s Human Resource Management Service show that out of the 4,037 members and employees of the House, 1,941 are women.
The women representation in the House is broken down as follows: 85 legislators, 649 Secretariat employees, 940 congressional staff members, and 267 co-terminus and contractual workers.
The House currently has eight female deputy speakers, namely, Evelina Escudero (Sorsogon, 1st District), Loren Legarda (Antique, Lone District), Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District), Divina Grace Yu (Zamboanga del Sur, 1st District), Camille Villar (Las Piñas City, Lone District), Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas (Pangasinan, 3rd District), and Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas, 6th District).
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