Have we made change work for women?
This is the last week of March, acknowledged all over the country as Women’s Month. Women’s Month is also part of the celebration of International Women’s Day every March 8.
All over the country, tarpaulins are displayed in local government offices, as well as in offices of the different line government agencies, with this message in bold letters: “We make change work for women!” This is the theme for the Women’s Month celebration that the Philippine Commission on Women has set for the years 2017 to 2022.
“Making change work” for women is the short version of this theme. It is also the acronym of our country’s landmark legislation, Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women (MCW).
The MCW is a comprehensive women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting the rights of Filipino women, especially those in the marginalized sector.
The theme is based on the meanings of its words as acronyms. “We” stands for “women’s empowerment”; and “change” means “compassionate, harmonized networks for gender equality.”
Making change work for women is anchored on the idea that development is based on “malasakit and pagbabago” (compassion and real change).
Surely, these are lofty words that can bring not only good vibes (or GV as our millennial counterparts put it), but also some exhilaration that finally, women’s rights as enshrined in the MCW are to be recognized, protected, and as the theme says, to make all these work for women to become not only the beneficiaries but also the drivers of their own development in whatever sector they belong, especially the marginalized ones.
But as we close this year’s monthlong celebration for women, has the “real change” in this not-so-new government worked for women, especially for those on the fringes of society? Has there been real malasakit and pagbabago in this government that created the impetus to make a difference in the lives of the people, especially of women?
In terms of pagbabago, President Duterte has surely scored high in creating all sorts of changes, especially unsavory ones. Think of all the increasing number of ordinary people who have
become victims of his brutal war on drugs; his acquiescence to China and the latter’s enticements for onerous loans; withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, among others.
But surely, he has no malasakit at all for feisty women leaders who dared defy him or for those who have criticized his almost autocratic reign on the government. He has instead shown a soft
spot for those who have been convicted of plunder, for the inveterate liars who are now running for legislators’ posts in our two houses of Congress. As his own daughter noted, “honesty is not an issue in this election.”
Last week a staff member of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) presented a gender guidebook for media practitioners during a television morning show. Perhaps the Duterte administration can use this as a tangible measure that it is quite serious in providing a “compassionate” platform for promoting gender equality?
This is good, except that the leading personality who seriously needs a good brainwashing on operational guidelines for gender equality is the principal of the PCOO — the President himself.
After all, he is the only president so far to have made rape jokes, with misogynist and condescending remarks on women a regular part of his collection of verbal antics. Such remarks are not expressive of either malasakit or pagbabago; they are verbal assaults on women that hark back to the days of ignorance and male chauvinism.
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