“With enduring qualities, women exemplify
multiple capacities to manage even the most
challenging situations. Their courage and
boldness mirror a resilient form of leadership
towards inclusive and sustainable development. There’s more to gain in investing in gender equality and women leadership for the benefit of local communities and the whole society.” -Ms. Loreine Dela Cruz
The United Nations (UN) continues to embrace international days as a powerful advocacy tool to educate the public, mobilize political will and resources, and reinforce achievements of humanity. Among its most popular observances is the International Women’s Day, which provides an opportunity to celebrate inspiring acts of ordinary women playing amazing roles in their countries and communities.
The Philippines has made strides in achieving gender equality by closing 78.4% of its overall gender gap, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021. It ranks 2nd in East Asia and the Pacific and 17th globally out of 156 countries. The report cites that the Philippines virtually closed the gender gap between men and women in educational attainment as well as in health and survival. It is among the top 18 countries that have closed at least 79.5% of their economic participation and opportunity gaps. This is consistent with the report findings that women own 2 in every 3 registered small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines.
Women for Sustainable Development
Ms. Loreine Dela Cruz is the Executive Director of the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP). It envisions having safe, resilient, and developed Filipino communities. CDP promotes inclusive community-based disaster risk reduction and management to achieve this goal. The center also engages various stakeholders in its advocacy on climate change adaptation and mitigation. It supports the design and implementation of plans, programs, and policies by, for, and with vulnerable groups and communities.
She is among the Co-Chairs of the Philippine Preparedness Partnership (PHILPREP) that currently comprises the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) representing the government, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) for the private sector, and CDP for local non-government organizations (NGOs). PHILPREP is the national chapter in the Philippines of the Asian Preparedness Partnership (APP), which is a multi-stakeholder regional partnership that includes countries from South and Southeast Asia to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
Ms. Dela Cruz reflects on the importance of gender equality in achieving a sustainable future for all. She shares that gender equality has always been integrated in her advocacy agenda and development work. The director works to ensure that it does not evolve into just a catchphrase, losing its essence and meaning. At CDP, there are more women than men. It is a result of a conscious effort to promote diversity and inclusivity in the organization. They also promote work-life balance both in the workplace and in the lifestyle of their members. Ms. Dela Cruz leads by example, ensuring open communication at CDP. She believes that leaders of today have a responsibility to coach and mentor the younger generation.
She reports that the climate crisis is one of the most significant risk drivers that require global focus and attention from all states and non-state actors, including the whole citizenry. “There is recognition that climate change impacts men and women differently. Women are more vulnerable as they are more dependent on the natural resources in which climate change threatens the most,” Ms. Dela Cruz adds.
For sustainable development and gender equality to be achieved, Ms. Dela Cruz comments, “Empowerment of women and girls and amplifying their voice as equal players in decision making is crucial.” Women have proven to be trailblazers, providing the model of thoroughgoing advocates and leaders for climate action and sustainability. According to the Women and Men Factsheet 2021 published by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), women in the Philippines have longer life expectancy and higher functional literacy rate than men. As head of the household, women tend to have higher amounts of income and savings. Women also outnumber men in business registration, renewal, and capacity-building services for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). At least 85% of women decide on their own healthcare, major household purchases, and visits to their families or relatives.
Ms. Dela Cruz firmly believes that unity is the foundation for change, “Women and other vulnerable groups need to actively participate and lead climate adaptation and mitigation decisions”. By integrating gender-based economic and political inequalities in the core adaptation action as the root causes of vulnerability, structural inequalities faced by women and other vulnerable sections of the population are given primordial importance. She asserts that global perspectives to mitigate climate change need to expand, “It is also important to map out climate change consequences for better understanding and framing, in a more gender-sensitive and transformative way. This action requires investment in information and training activities dedicated for women.” She emphasizes the need for these actions to help strengthen women’s leadership from the communities most at-risk.
Moreover, she believes that these initiatives will further support women’s engagement in national and local climate and resilience processes towards sustainable development. She leaves an important message as the 2022 IWD is observed globally and the 2022 NWM is celebrated in the Philippines, “Now is the time, and there’s no other important time but today more than ever. We want our communities to be free from bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. Diverse, equitable, and inclusive society must be today's reality.”
2022 International Women’s Day
The International Women’s Day or IWD is observed on the 8th of March every year. It celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all over the world. It also serves to increase their visibility and to amplify the call to action for accelerating women’s equality. In 2022, the campaign theme is “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”. It is in recognition of the contribution of women and girls who lead the charge on climate change adaptation and mitigation towards building a more sustainable future for all.
Women are identified as among the most marginalized as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor. They are also seen as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men. Despite this reality, women and girls are also powerful leaders and effective agents of change in their local communities. They are involved in sustainability initiatives and climate action all around the world.
IWD celebrates the contributions and possibilities of gender equality. Women have the potential to contribute USD 12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025 if they are given the same rights, privileges, and weight in societies. This is one of the many indicators that prioritizing equality is long overdue. Global transformation starts with communities and nations to become larger models of change across the world.
2022 National Women’s Month
The National Women’s Month or NWM celebrates women’s achievements in the Philippines. It also provides an opportunity to tackle continuing and emerging gender equality concerns, challenges, and commitments. The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) has identified the following theme – We Make Change Work for Women – since its inception in 2017. The theme highlights the empowerment of women as active contributors to and claimholders of development.
The celebration of NWM is rooted in several laws. Proclamation No. 224, s. 1988 declares the first week of March of every year as Women’s Week. Moreover, it also states that 8th of March 1988 and every year thereafter as Women’s Rights and International Peace Day. The proclamation recognizes the contributions of Filipino women in the struggle for national freedom, civil liberty, equality, and human rights. Additionally, Proclamation No. 227, s. 1988 provides for the observance of the month of March as “Women’s Role in History Month”. It emphasizes the importance of women’s contributions in the economic, cultural, political, and social life in the country. The proclamation also recognizes the leadership of Filipino women in progressive social change movements towards creating a more fair and just society for all. Finally, Republic Act No. 6949, s. 1990 declares the 8th of March of every year as a working special holiday, to be known as “National Women’s Day”. It brings together employees from the government and private sector to participate in activities by their respective offices in celebration of Filipino women.
While the Philippines has done so much to close the gender gaps between men and women, there is still work to be done to fully achieve gender equality in the country. The UN Women reports that as of December 2020, less than half of the indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available in the Philippines. Gender equality remains to be an aspiration for everyone to work on in making sustainable development a reality.