by Samira Gutoc
In the Philippines, leaders always say they are for the protection of women, they support equality, they value women's rights, they are for women.
But the composition of the government seems to be not representative of women.
Of the 43 members of the Duterte Cabinet, only three are women. Majority of the officials of the National Security Council, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police are men.
Of the 24 elected senators in the 17th Congress, only six are women, one is currently detained, opposition Sen. Leila de Lima. Of the almost 300 sitting members of the House of Representatives, only 82 are women.
While the composition of some government branches does not necessarily reflect the government’s support for women, it can affect whether or not our policies, our legislative and political agenda, our decisions, take into consideration the women perspective. For instance, there is a need to include women in combatting terrorism and in the decision-making and discussions of peace and security issues in the country.
We have to make our country’s peace and security agenda inclusive for the women who are often marginalized in these areas. Specifically, women must become part of security councils, defense agencies, security government offices and public institutions to make a change and to help in nation-building and achieving development.
I have also been advocating for the local legislation of the landmark United Nations resolution on Women, Peace, and Security No. 1325 adopted on Oct. 31, 2000. The resolution “reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”
Moreover, a law requiring local government to activate women’s councils should be enacted to ensure that women across the country, even in far-flung areas, are given the chance to be consulted and heard.
Livelihood and jobs for women should also be prioritized. Approximately 4.2 million of the 38.5 million employed persons in the country are unpaid family workers, based on the October 2013 Labor Force Survey. Among the unpaid family workers, 2.4 million or 58% were women. Women - regardless of status, belief or religion - should have equal access to sustainable and safe jobs with decent pay.
These are just some of the reasons why the May 13, 2019 election is crucial. Women voters should take this opportunity to balance the equation by electing candidates who would advocate the causes and welfare of the Filipino women.
In the 2016 national and local elections, the Commission on Elections said that 51.6% of the registered voters in the Philippines are women, while the men were only 48.4%. In terms of election participation, 82.68% of those registered women voters actually voted, while only 78.68% of the registered male voters went out to vote.
Unfortunately, Comelec data also bared that 80.62% of the candidates were men and only 19.36% were women. And only 18.18% of the women candidates were successful.
Men continue to make our laws. They continue to make decisions for our country, specifically in security matters. Policewomen, for one, are left doing paper works instead of leading a holistic fight against criminality and illegal drugs.
In May 2017, I witnessed how the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi City in Mindanao. I have seen firsthand there how women can survive and lead. We can be leaders, we can be movers, not because we are weak and we need pity, but because we deserve to be heard, and we are capable.
As a Filipino Muslim woman working with the poorest of the poor in one of the most impoverished regions in the country, I see the need to represent the marginalized women. And time is more than ripe for this revolution led by women, for the women. We just have to decide, and take action.