By Christine Angela R. Ilagan
It takes a woman to address a woman’s concern.
In the platforms of modern womenleaders of politics and international policy-making of today, advocating for women’s rights will be among their priorities.
There’s United States’ former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, among others. In the Philippines, we have our fair share of women leaders in the likes of former presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, our current vice president Leni Robredo, the late senator and international lawyer Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and first transgender lawmaker Geraldine Roman.
These women, and many others in the political arena all over the world, are one in airing the concerns of their fellow women, and they make use of their positions as a platform in making the needed changes.
Women in politics
Unlike in the past when government positions were occupied by men, women seated in political posts today are nothing out of the ordinary anymore. The Philippines has seen two women take the highest posts of the land, not to mention the many women-officials and lawmakers in various positions nationwide. Yet, there is still a big gap when you look at the actual present state versus the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aspirations. The increase doesn’t even meet the 30 percent “critical mass,” which political scholars have identified as the tipping point.
According to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the country was only able to achieve 26 percent-representation of women in the Senate and Congress despite the 50 percent target as per Millennium Development Goal by the year 2015.
The statistics above mentioned is somehow alarming knowing that women actually comprise half of the population in the country. However there is only onefifth of elected positions going to women in politics. And considering the record of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in 2017, women had comprised only 17 percent of the national and local candidates from 2004 to 2016.
The undeniable hindrances
Even though the doors are already open for women to enter in the policymaking sector, there are still fewer women deciding to enter government.
There seem to be numerous barriers that hinder women from giving their full participation. Of these, social and economic reasons top the list. Women are commonly perceived as weak and fragile, compared to men, who are perceives as the stronger. More willful gender. This can be partly cultural, due to the predominantly patriarchal structure of the family, wherein the men are the sole breadwinners and decision-makers, while the women’s responsibilities were limited to the rearing of children and the house chores.
The violence in local politics especially during the campaign period, and the lack of support or funding for electoral campaigns involving women candidates, are just a few of the additional factors why women are not too motivated to enter politics.
Addressing the issue
To remove numerous barriers, a call to have more effective methods and strategies should be implemented. Hence, to address the issue and to give more support on women to enter the political sphere, Policy Brief No. 4 was created. Through the effort of government and PCW, the policy making body for women in the Philippines, established a law that provides the rationale and recommendations for promoting and accelerating women’s political participation and representation in elective positions through the adoption of a gender quota and other temporary special measures.
In terms of political participation, the government and the society need to adopt a temporary special measure to attain gender equality. One of these strategies is the quota system, which ensures that there will be a certain number or percentage of the members of a particular body allocated to each gender. The quota aim is to increase women’s participation, attaining a 50-50 percent gender balance. The immediate aim is for women to constitute the so-called “critical mass” of at least 30 percent. Through quota system, a token representation is done away with, with more vigorous efforts at recruiting qualified women to aspire for political positions.
Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women is a wide-ranging and comprehensive law to address the socioeconomic and political rights of women. Under Section 11, it is stated that, “temporary special measures (must be implemented) to accelerate the participation and equitable representation of women in all spheres of society particularly in the decision-making and policymaking processes in government and private entities to fully realize their role as agents and beneficiaries of development.”
Many more laws have been made and there are further policies and strategies that might be in effect in the future to fully ensure that women’s voice can be clearly heard in all halls of politics.