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Gender Achievements in 2010 and Challenges Ahead

Gender Achievements in 2010 and Challenges Ahead

Jan 14, 2012

Gender Achievements in 2010 and Challenges Ahead By Cess Celestino The RH Bill had been a hot topic in the Philippines since 2008, but especially last year when newly-elected President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, or P-Noy, expressed what has been construed as support for the bill. One of the basic guiding principles of the Reproductive Health Bill (RA 5043) is the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment in health and population development. For advocates of women’s reproductive and human rights, the bill will always be controversial because it lobbies for the interests of women in reproductive health, a hotly contested arena between women and the Catholic Church. Yet in the midst of the controversies surrounding the lobby for the bill and public clamor against gender discrimination in health care is some good news. An international assessment actually reports that the Philippines placed 1st in gender equality in health and survival, and is among only eight countries in the world to have closed the gender gap in health. The 2010 Global Gender Gap Index produced by the World Economic Forum pitted the Philippines against 133 countries in a world ranking that assesses countries “on how well they divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources.”[1]  Aside from the high ranking in health and survival, the Philippines also managed to stay on top of the other aspects covered by the index—educational attainment, economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, and basic rights and social institutions. As expected, high income countries dominated the index, specifically the Nordic countries with Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden bagging the top four spots respectively. However, the 8th and 9th places were given to Lesotho and the Philippines, proving that even low income countries are capable of closing gender gaps. In fact, the Philippines has been making great strides in the index—the past five runs have consistently placed the Philippines in the top ten of the rankings, making it the only Asian country in that bracket. And despite failing to revert to the 6th place, which was its rank from years 2006 to 2008, the 2010 index shows that the Philippines was still able to maintain its 9th rank from 2009, with an overall score of 76.5 percent. Certainly, this is a great feat for the Philippine government, which has been stringent in implementing policies and programs for the promotion of gender equality. The new administration openly expressed support for women empowerment. During the awarding ceremony for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) last November 2010, P-Noy declared that “we will continue the movement to protect the dignity of women.” He asserted that one of the main goals of his presidency is to address the “gender gap,” as he recognized that “there can be no real democracy while there is gender discrimination.” President Aquino also lauded the various efforts being exerted by the government in pursuing the advancement and protection of women’s rights through the “strong mandate” of the Philippine Commission on Women, the newly-passed Magna Carta of Women (R.A. 9710) and the Commission on Audit’s periodic review of government agencies on the proper use of the gender and development budget. Yet even before the May 2010 elections that placed President Aquino in office, the status report of the Philippines on the Millennium Development Goals already exhibited a high probability of achieving majority of the targets, including promoting gender equality and empowering women. In support of this past performance, President Aquino also presented his MDGs to show the Philippines’ commitment to promote equal opportunity for men and women in public policies and programs and to improve maternal health by refining the RH Bill. As a way of keeping regular track of the gender gap in the Philippines, the National Statistics Office (NSO) releases a quarterly Gender Quickstat, which contains updates of the NSO’s Most Requested Sex-disaggregated Statics. The latest update[2], which was released on the 3rd quarter of 2010, showed a very close percentage of projected and total population of males and females, as well as of other demographic indicators, such as marital status, elderly population and disabled persons. The figures also showed relatively equal ratings, specifically on the aspects of vital statistics, literacy rate, employment and unemployment rate, family income and expenditure, household population and overseas Filipino workers. On the other hand, despite the seeming gender equalities, the same NSO update also presented a drastic disparity of males and females in the labor force, as 61.2 percent of employed persons were males and only 38.8 percent were females in the period the report covered. The Labor Force Participation Rate also shows a ratio favorable to males, 78.8 percent, compared to the female counterpart, at only 49.3 percent. Another area that needs to be improved is business and industry. Majority of the aspects NSO covered have been dominated by males, with the exception of the manufacturing business and industry, wholesale and retail trade, in which the figures between males and females were almost the same. In contrast, however, females faired higher in the areas of private education, and health and social work. Given these figures, a greater majority of the areas presented a balance between men and women in the Philippines. Compared to the NSO update in the 4th quarter of 2009, the current status appears to be of relatively the same state, thus proving that the Philippines has indeed maintained a narrow gap—a situation that favoured males— between men and women over the past year. However, it must be noted that the NSO Gender Quickstat did not include other essential areas that might have been useful in studying gender equality in the Philippines, such as social welfare, public life or political participation, violence against women and human rights. Hence, while the Philippines holds on to a spot at the top ten of Global Gender Gap Index, there is much that the new administration needs to address, as pertinent gender-related issues such as trafficking of women and gender inequality in reproductive health care continue to plague the country, continually putting women at a disadvantage.

[1] World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap. http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-gender-gap
[2] National Statistics Office. Gender Quickstat, Third Quarter 2010. http://www.census.gov.ph/data/quickstat/qsgender10q3.pdf   (Published in Focus on the Philippines January 2011: http://focusweb.org/oldphilippines/content/view/477/52/)   the picture is from AKBAYAN Partylist

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