House Deputy Speaker Linabelle Ruth Villarica has assured women political leaders from around the world that the Philippines continues to promote gender equality, and has in fact scored well in international gender equality measures and indices.
Villarica underscored that gender equality is quite advanced in the Philippines, during her opening statement at the Women Political Leaders (WPL) Annual Global Summit 2017, Session on “Women, Business and the Law,” held recently at the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Because of the country’s many strides in promoting gender equality, the legislator said the Philippines scored well in international gender equality measures and indices.
The lawmaker cited that in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum, the Philippines ranked 7th overall in terms of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
The Philippines has also kept its spot as one of the world’s gender-equal society among 144 economies and remained the highest ranked country in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the congresswoman, Representative of the Fourth District of Bulacan.
As a parliamentarian, she shared her insights on the state of legal gender parity in the country. “Gender equality is quite advanced in our country. Currently, there are 68 women parliamentarians or 28.6 percent of the total 238 district representatives of the House of Representatives. This represents a marked increase from 12 years ago when there were only 32 or 15.2 percent of the total 211 House Members,” said Villarica.
In addition, she said there are 59 party-list House Members – 19 of whom are women – representing various marginalized sectors including women and the youth.
“Overall, women representation in the Philippine Congress was much higher than the global average for women in parliament at 22 percent and the Asian average of 18 percent in 2015,” she said. Villarica then proudly presented 14 lady legislators from the Philippines who were present at the forum.
She said the 2015 International Labor Organization’s Women in Business and Management Report asserted that investing in women is one of the most effective means of increasing equality and promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.
“According to a 2016 report by McKinsey & Company, if the Philippines were to increase its workforce participation of women by just one percentage point each year, then by the year 2025, gross domestic product would increase by nine percent or an additional $40 billion over the period,” Villarica said.
Given the international rankings, She said the country continues to monitor the status of women and implement laws and programs to empower them and further promote gender equality.
Villarica cited the “Magna Carta of Women” which was signed into law in 2009. The law prohibits discrimination against women and recognizes, promotes and protects their rights. Also, in 2013, the “Domestic Workers Act” was passed into law in order to better protect the large group of mostly young, female workers.
In the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), she said women parliamentarians in 10 Member States have been pushing for an enabling framework for greater women empowerment in the region.
In September this year, in the 38th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary General Assembly held in the Philippines, Villarica said the Women Parliamentarians of the ASEAN, which she chaired, adopted a resolution establishing a Women Committee on Women Migrant Workers.
“It addresses health issues of women migrant workers in the Southeast Asian region. This landmark resolution was formally and unanimously approved by all ASEAN member nations,” she said.
In the last ASEAN General Assembly in 2016, VIllarica also chaired the Committee of Women Parliamentarians where they adopted a Philippine-sponsored resolution extending the maternity benefits of working women in ASEAN.
“This resolution addresses the rights of women to receive health protection, maternity-related benefits and childcare facilities at work including paternity benefits which encourage fathers to share their responsibilities for the care of children,” she said.
Moreover, VIllarica said the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network held the ASEAN Women’s Business Conference in August 2017 to provide a platform for dialogues among the member states for women in business and gender equality.
“In addition, the formation of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment and the ASEAN events raised awareness and gathered support for the many ways in which business can promote gender equality in the workplace,” she said.
Finally, opportunities to push for women’s economic empowerment are increasing globally and more groups are committing themselves to help women take advantage of such opportunities, said Villarica.
“We ourselves, in this Summit, must exercise leadership and work to ensure lasting change in the economic empowerment of women worldwide,” she concluded.