Empowering Women in Politics: Fostering Good Governance and Upholding Women's Rights
In a recent gathering at the Balanghai Hotel and Convention Center on March 30-31, 2023, a seminar titled "Enhancing the Capacity of Women in Local Governance" organized in collaboration between the People Power Volunteers for Reform (PPVR) Caraga and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - Philippines, aimed to empower women in politics while highlighting the significance of good governance.
The seminar delved into various aspects surrounding women's rights and their active participation in politics. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) played a crucial role by shedding light on women's rights and their obligations under the Magna Carta of Women (MCW). Designated as the gender ombud, CHR ensures compliance with women protection laws, including MCW and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Philippines, as a committed signatory to CEDAW, aspires towards fulfilling its obligations in upholding women's rights. The MCW, enacted into law on August 14, 2009, serves as the government's response to CEDAW, striving for gender equality, women's empowerment, and the eradication of discrimination.
During the seminar, it became evident that the government has a responsibility that goes beyond enacting laws; it involves implementing programs that offer psychosocial support and address the economic dependency between victims and abusers. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of protection, participants emphasized the importance of not only legal measures but also comprehensive programs that support and assist women. These programs aim to ensure the overall well-being of women affected by violence.
The seminar also highlighted the role of state parties, such as the Philippines, in condemning and addressing discrimination. The Philippines committed to pursuing a policy of eliminating discrimination by embodying the principle of equality in legislation and protecting women's rights through legal measures. Public authorities and institutions are expected to refrain from practicing discrimination, and existing laws are subject to modification or abolition to ensure equality.
The importance of women's voices in decision-making processes and political representation was a recurring theme throughout the seminar. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's famous quote, "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks," resonated strongly. Participants reiterated the need to remove barriers that hinder women's progress and to create an environment where women can fully participate in and contribute to society without fear of harassment or violation.
The seminar also delved into the specific provisions and targets outlined in the MCW. For example, it sets a goal of achieving a 50-50 gender balance in the third level of civil service positions, which was targeted to be achieved by 2014. In a January 2014 report, the Philippines reported a 60-40 gender balance in these positions, indicating progress in this area.
While progress has been made, the seminar acknowledged that challenges persist. Women still face barriers, including personal constraints, financial limitations, sexism, cultural stereotypes, state repression, and violence. To overcome these obstacles, the seminar aimed to equip women with the necessary knowledge, skills, and support networks to thrive in the political arena.
Additionally, the seminar emphasized the importance of good governance in promoting women's political participation. Good governance entails transparency, integrity, lawfulness, sound policy, participation, accountability, responsiveness, absence of corruption, and strong institutions. Participants recognized that women's perspectives and experiences are crucial for achieving comprehensive and balanced decision-making and policy implementation.
The seminar also shed light on the current state of gender development in the Philippines. While the country has made significant strides in attaining gender equality, there is still work to be done, particularly in areas such as economic participation, education, health, survival, and political empowerment.
The event was the first step in enhancing the capacity of women in local governance and served as an empowering platform. It aimed to equip women with the knowledge, skills, and support necessary to actively participate in decision-making processes, contribute to the development of their communities, and uphold the principles of good governance. By fostering women's political empowerment, the seminar sought to create a more inclusive and equitable society, where women's rights are protected, and their voices are heard.