PH women and development beyond 2015

Fritzie Rodriguez
PH women and development beyond 2015
With Millennium Development Goals expiring by the end of 2015, how will the battle for gender equality continue?

MANILA, Philippines — Gender inequality hurts both men and women, with the latter shouldering extra weight.

Latest government data shows that the Philippines has so far failed 4 out of the 7 indicators for the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of achieving gender equality and women empowerment. It also failed in reaching targets on maternal mortality and reproductive healthcare.

As the MDGs are expiring by the end of 2015, the global community is once again preparing for a new set of targets known as the Sustanabile Development Goals (SDGs), part of the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda.

One out of the 17 ambitious SDGs is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” in the next 15 years.

Will the Philippines fare better this time? 

Philippine performance

The MDG of achieving gender equality expects governments worldwide to eliminate “gender disparity” among schools. 

As of 2013, the Philippines has managed to balance the ratio of girls to boys in high school, but not in primary and tertiary education, the National Statistical Coordination Board reported.

Official data also revealed that Filipino boys are “underperforming in school.” Girls fared better in literacy rates and national achievement tests, while boys were more likely to drop out. 

But girls outperforming boys does not spell gender equality. 

“When the woman in a family is the better educated and has larger potential income outside the home, she is expected to do both full-time work and fulfill traditional home and child-care duties,” Clarissa David of the University of the Philippines and Jose Ramon Albert of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies wrote in June 2015. (READ: Why many of the hungry are women)

“Taken to the extreme, research in other countries has found that well-educated and highly paid women who are in unequal partnerships with their spouse are vulnerable to domestic abuse,” they added. 

In fact, one-fourth of married Filipino women has experienced sexual, physical, or emotional violence from their husbands, the 2013 National Health and Demographic Health Survey showed. And over 3,000 Filipino girls experienced child abuse in 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) documented. This is nearly double the number of cases among boys.

It is important to note how gender inequality during childhood could extend its impacts until much later.

Meanwhile, in terms of governance, there are also less Filipino women in leadership positions.

Filipino women in political seats

Source: Philippine Commission on Women

Women in Senate 6 out of 24 senators
Women in House of Representatives  79 out of 289 representatives
Women as governors
(2013 elections)
Women as municipal mayors
(2013 elections)

During the launch of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network-Philippines on Monday, August 4, Leonor Briones of Social Watch also emphasized the importance of gender in development.

From 1998 to 2013, there has always been more employed men than women, official labor statistics showed.

Employed persons in the Philippines

Source: Department of Labor and Employment

  Men Women
1998 16.7 M 9.9 M
2005 19.9 M 12.4 M
2013 23.2 M 14.97 M

If only more women were given fair access to education and jobs, they could greatly contribute to the economy, Briones stressed.

The same goes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos who might be missing out on economic opportunities due to discrmination.

Old laws, old problems

Although the Philippines has several laws supporting women, Briones argued that it also has outdated policies that need to go.

“You have the Civil Code of the Philippines which still contains provisions which do not necessarily treat women as equal citizens,” Briones explained.

Discriminatory provisions in the PH Civil Code:
The husband is the administrator of the conjugal property.
No marriage license shall be issued to a widow till after 300 days following the death of her husband.
The wife cannot, without the husband’s consent acquire any property by gratuitous title, except from relatives.
The wife manages the affairs of the household. 
The wife may exercise any profession or occupation or engage in business. However, the husband may object. 

“Now in this day and age, when we might have same-sex marriages, and if the law says that it is the husband who’s head of the family, how do we determine who is the husband and who is the wife? That’s a very serious question,” she added.

Unlike the MDGs which did not give much attention to LGBT issues, the SDGs might provide an avenue for such discussions.

While advocates are criticizing the Philippines for upholding archaic laws discrminating women, they are also praising it for introducing innovative policies like the Reproductive Health (RH) law.

RH, the UN Women stressed, is closely linked to development: “Sustainable development cannot be achieved unless all women and girls enjoy universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights over the life cycle, enabling them to make free and informed decisions about sex and reproduction.”

With the RH law in full swing, much is to be expected of the Philippines in achieving women empowerment in the coming years, according to advocates. Results, however, are yet to be seen.

Ways forward

Unlike the MDGs which primarily focused on education, the SDGs propose to also look at mechanisms for addressing gender-based discrimination and violence; unequal access to political participation, reproductive health, and paid work; and harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

SUSTAINABILITY. Women contribute greatly to both national and household food security   Harnessing women’s knowledge and collective action could help achieve sustainable development, the UN Women stressed. Apart from education, employment, and governence, women are also important players in: 

  • Ecosystem conservation
  • Resource productivity and efficiency.
  • Building more sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient food, energy, water, sanitation, and health systems.  

In September 2015, the UN will hold a summit to discuss the adoption of the SDGs. Out of the several goals that the world wishes to accomplish in the coming years, advocates are reminding governments not to forget to fate of women and girls. –

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