The power of women investing in women

The power of women investing in women

/ 05:02 AM March 08, 2024

One campaign season many years ago, my team and I were having late breakfast at Jollibee East Ave., Quezon City, when an old woman—with short hair and of average build—approached me. “Excuse me, for your campaign fund,” she said, pressing two carefully folded P1,000 bills into my palm.

I asked, “Meron po ba kayong calling card?” but she just shook her head and slowly walked away, smiling. It was the start of another difficult week of raising campaign funds, but this gesture of kindness made me and my campaign manager tear up.

This memory occupied my mind as I thought of the United Nations’ International Women’s Day theme this year: “Invest in Women.” I thought of how a mere P2,000 donation from a woman I didn’t know made a significant contribution not only to our actual campaign, but also to my well of faith, hope, and courage.

I thought of all the women in my life who, in ways big and small, have spent time, talent, and resources on other women, including myself, with the gentle expectation of achieving our growth and improving our capabilities to uplift the rest of the world.


I thought of Ging Deles, my elder sister-young mother, who was not only our wedding sponsor, but also my mentor in the peace and women’s movement. She took me in as a volunteer, then employed me, and later supported me into a leadership position in the peace movement.

I thought of Etta Rosales, my senior party list representative at Akbayan, whom I fondly call “my PG/pretty girl.” An example of a lifelong activist, she mentored me and exposed me to both the possibilities and the farcical aspects of legislation. She gave me moral support in the turning points of my life.

I thought of my college barkada—Melay Abao, Aggie Bulahan, and the “Badmintonettes”—lifelong friends for four decades now. We’ve done politics together, fought and reconciled, have been there for each other in sickness and in health, in childbearing and in death, and everything in between.

These women, among many others, have made it possible for me to be myself, doing the work I do, while investing in other women, too. Without them, I would not have the platform I have in the Senate, that of giving space for the most marginalized women—from the sexually abused victim-survivors of Apollo Quiboloy, to the tireless solo mothers fighting for their much-needed benefits.


Most of the laws I’ve authored—such as the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Safe Spaces Act, the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, the Girls Not Brides Act, and the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law—are a way to invest in women, a way to support women and girls as we push back against cultural, economic, and social norms that prevent us from moving forward.

In engaging in debates with other legislators on financial resources needed to support women, I’ve noticed that it has become more palatable to the larger audience to argue for women’s rights in terms of economic progress. To defend our right for support, we quote the World Bank report on how closing the gender gap would result in a 20-percent increase in GDP or gross domestic product per capita. We also note how the International Labour Organization has estimated that 300 million jobs could be created by 2035 should the gender gap, especially in care services, be bridged.


I have found that conversations around gender equality should sometimes be prefaced with how this is not about sentiment, how this is beyond feeling and emotion, but is backed by years of evidence, research, and science. But while gender equity is indeed a factor for economic growth, I have to admit that it is sometimes worrying when arguments about “investing in women” lead to us being reduced to numbers and peso values, as if we deserve recognition and respect only if we contribute to the world’s standard of economic success.

Each year that we celebrate Women’s Month, each day that we work toward gender equality, I hope that we can increasingly shape behavior and beliefs in which women are treated simply as full humans deserving of all our inalienable rights.

I dream of a world where we do not have to contort ourselves to fit an economic graph; a world where “investing in women” is not just a theme to celebrate but an impetus to action—be it by crafting bills and passing laws, sharing our time and resources with family and friends, or pressing hard-earned peso bills into another woman’s hand.


Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros is chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality.

TAGS: National Women's Month, women's rights

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.