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Safe, secure, equal

/ 05:18 AM March 08, 2019

How does the Philippines fare when it comes to safety and security—specifically for women?

Value Champion, a Singapore-based consumer research company, broadens the concepts of safe and secure by drawing on data from different sources (e.g. the UN Development Program or UNDP, Global Peace Index, World Health Organization, World Bank) to look at quality of life/crime, education and opportunity, and health care.

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Here are their rankings for 14 Asia-Pacific countries, from highest to lowest: Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong,  South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, China, the Philippines (that’s No. 12), Indonesia and India.

So what happened to those much larger global surveys where we ranked very high? There is the Gender Development Index of the UNDP, where, in the 2017 report, we ranked 20th among 164 countries. In that index, we ranked higher than Singapore (48th) and New Zealand (76th).

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Our favorite for bragging rights is the Global Gender Gap issued by the World Economic Forum, where we have consistently been within the Top 10 (meaning with the least gender gap). In the 2018 report, we ranked eighth, compared to New Zealand at seventh while Singapore landed 67th.

The “safe and secure” rankings are important. “Development” and “equality” are often too abstract, detached from people’s perceptions and feelings. This is why the Social Weather Stations’ (and Inquirer columnist) Mahar Mangahas is considered so revolutionary for starting surveys that asked people for their self-ratings on poverty and hunger, rather than just relying on the statistics on income and nutrition.

I’m hoping our gender studies can move in this direction as well, asking how people rate themselves in terms of safety, security and equality as men, women and other genders.

Value Champion’s study is simple yet comprehensive, redefining safety and security not just in relation to peace and order, but also to economic opportunities and health care. What struck me about the Value Champion ratings is that we ranked sixth in terms of education and opportunities, but got dragged down by ranking 12th for both quality of life/crime and for health care.

That high rank for education and other opportunities is borne out by statistics showing that women in the Philippines have higher average educational attainment than men. The job market, too, is often more open to women, even discriminating against men, who are seen as less educated, less honest, less hardworking…  Sorry, guys, I know my readers are not that way at all. (Smile.)

Yet, women do feel more vulnerable than men when it comes to public safety, and risks to attacks and harassment, physically and emotionally. Sometimes I think, as a gender exercise, we should have our men dressed up in a skirt and blouse and sent out into the night, alone, just to see what it’s like.

As for health care, women’s health services continue to be so inadequate, especially around family planning, childbirth and pregnancy. I would add that the inadequacies are particularly serious when it comes to being able to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, given the power relations between men and women in a relationship. The prime example comes with women who can’t ask their husbands to use a condom, or even abstain from having sex with him, even if they know he has multiple extramarital relationships.

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To feel safe and secure requires empowerment, but that word can be such a cliché. This month, we will see thousands of women participating in mass actions celebrating women’s power. We will have such activities in UP, but today, in a morning speech, I will be talking about my heartaches as chancellor, being privy to the stories, sometimes with photos, of our faculty, students and staff who have suffered from sexual harassment and domestic violence. The saddest part is that I know of women who are most vocal in their feminism, but suffer in silence, in their private lives, from gender-related violence.

One last important takeaway from all these indices: We have to remember that the attempts to measure gender gaps are done per country. I was looking at data from a 2008 survey and found that for Filipinos aged 20 to 39, the average years of schooling for men was 9.32 years, while it was 9.58 for women. So, should we proud of the small gender gap, and that women overtake men? But reflect, too, on the fact that an average nine years of education is not even a high school diploma.

Equality in deprivation is empty.

mtan@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: Equality, Michael tan, Philippines, Safety, security, Value Champion, women
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