Transforming empowerment of women into action | Inquirer Opinion
Women who lead

Transforming empowerment of women into action

Globally, commendable strides have been made in incorporating women empowerment and gender equality into policies, planning, and practice. Recognizing that half of the world’s talent resides in women, governments, corporations, and institutions recognize the crucial role of women’s inclusion in achieving a thriving global economy.

Mainstreaming gender in planning and policy can ignite a transformative spark, propelling women to the forefront of economic progress. By providing equal access to education, finance, and economic opportunities, we can create a dynamic environment where women entrepreneurs and leaders can thrive. However, the challenge lies in translating these policies into concrete action, propelling us toward a more equitable and empowered society.

As we look at this story with a broader view, Iet us focus our attention to something tangible and already within our reach. Around this time in 2017, the country hosted the Asean Women’s Business Conference in Manila where the Manila Statement was delivered and the Action Agenda for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Asean was launched and subsequently adopted by the Asean leaders. The member states were encouraged by the Asean leaders to acknowledge that gender equality is a cross-cutting concern and achieving a gender responsive Asean will require mainstreaming women’s economic empowerment through innovation, trade, and inclusive business.


Since then, the Asean Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN), through its designated project leader, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, with support of Oxfam, through its “Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in Southeast Asia” program, have persistently pursued efforts to mainstream the said action agenda in the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

In 2021, this partnership inched closer toward fully implementing women’s economic empowerment in all pillars of the AEC through the development and launch of the policy paper entitled, “Asean Through a Gender Lens: Recommendations for the Full Implementation of the Action Agenda on Mainstreaming Women’s Economic Empowerment in Asean.” This brief outlines concrete and measurable actions required for mainstreaming women’s economic empowerment within the AEC. This policy paper and the efforts led by the partnership breathed life into the vision of a robust economic community that not only ensures women are not left behind but also creates that ecosystem to empower women to lead the way forward.

In September 2021, the Asean Gender Mainstreaming Framework (AGMF) was launched to provide a strategic direction for a “whole of Asean” gender mainstreaming approach, with emphasis on strengthening coordination and collaboration between the three Asean communities. Following this, we saw the creation of the AGMF steering committee. Comprised of a diverse membership of sectoral bodies from across all three pillars, the steering committee where AWEN is a member, acts as the high-level body responsible for the strategic direction of the framework, with the intention of cross-pillar oversight and support to the multidimensional and collaborative approach required to effectively mainstream gender in Asean.

Here at home, our commitment to women’s inclusion, protection, and empowerment is evident in the Philippine Development Plan of 2023-2028, which seamlessly integrates gender equality into the various sectors, such as social protection and labor skills development. The Magna Carta of Women further solidifies our commitment by mandating all government instrumentalities to embrace gender mainstreaming as a strategy and directing all government departments and agencies to allocate a minimum of 5 percent of their budget for gender-focused programs and activities.


This call to action goes beyond mere rhetoric—it is about concrete implementation. Breaking barriers that hinder progress requires making policies work as intended. This is not just about gender equality on paper; it is about creating policies that benefit everyone, regardless of background, race, religion, or gender.

Join us on this transformative journey and read the full paper:



Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia is founding chair and president of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN) and chair of the Philippine Business Coalition of Women Empowerment.

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Women Who Lead is an initiative of PhilWEN.

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