11:30 PM November 5th, 2011

November 5th, 2011 11:30 PM

More often than not, the Philippines does not rate very well when it comes to international rankings. Whenever we hear of yet another global listing, Filipinos wince in anticipation of more bad news. Take, for instance, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport being named the worst airport in the world.

But now and then, we get some very good news. The 2011 Global Gender Gap rankings released by the World Economic Forum lists the Philippines as the eighth best country in the world when it comes to gender equality. Simply put, we live in a country where women have the same chances as their male equivalents. Nothing to surprise us. We naturally love our lola, mama, tita and ate – and we match what the heart feels with actions: we treat them well.

Last year, the Philippines already ranked ninth among 135 countries in the smallest gender gap. This year the country moved up one rung higher – and is the only Asian country in the top 10. The Global Gender Gap top 10 list boasts excellent company with Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, which finished atop the list. Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Philippines, Lesotho and Switzerland follow in that order.

The countries were ranked based on four categories: educational attainment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity, and political empowerment.

We should all be proud that the Philippines actually got a perfect score in the category of educational attainment, along with 21 other countries including the United States and the United Kingdom. Here, women get exactly the same opportunities to study in primary, secondary and tertiary educational levels as Filipino males, something that any country in the world should be proud of.

On female life expectancy, the Philippines tied with 37 other countries at the top spot. Filipino women generally live longer than Filipino men, and as long as women in First World countries.

That women in the Philippines enjoy almost as many benefits as their male counterparts should not come as a surprise considering that we come from a largely matriarchal society. Filipinos have long been told to respect women, and this is seen in the fact that free public education for both men and women is a given in the Philippines, something that is surprisingly uncommon in many countries. Here, we are not only used to Filipino women doing well in general, but doing even better than men.

In the last two categories, although the Philippines also scored relatively well, much remains to be done.

In terms of economic participation, the Philippines ranked 15th overall, which tells us that significant obstacles still exist, preventing women from doing as well as the men in the workplace. Fortunately, this might be changing in some ways. In a research done by Grant Thornton International earlier this year, it was shown that Filipino women held 47 percent of senior management positions in the country, easily the best in the world and higher than the average by as much as 23 percentage points. The Department of Labor and Employment’s statistics show that women in executive positions outnumber their male counterparts. What this shows is that women have succeeded in boardrooms but not as much in workrooms.

In terms of political empowerment, the Philippines ranked 16th, and this is clearly an area that should produce better results in the future. As a political force, women in the Philippines remain marginalized, and it is up to the government, whether national or local, to give women a stronger voice.

Of course, we note that there remain other pressing concerns, such as ending human trafficking and preventing violence against women. And the state of maternal and child health care in the country is still short of the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) target.

Nevertheless, ranking eighth in the world feels pretty good, but we can assuredly do much better – we should do much better. All Filipino women deserve it.

One can’t help but think there is much we take for granted living in the Philippines. Sometimes, it takes looking at the rest of the world to see the good in our country – as the Global Gender Gap rankings show us.

Here is indeed a good place for women to live in. Even if only because here is a place where women are respected and can become anything they want, be it president or a bus driver; and perhaps more importantly, a place where mothers are highly regarded and well-loved, never mind if overworked – a place, warts and all, they can happily call home.

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