CEBU CITY, Philippines – Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, the second woman elected to the vice presidency in the Philippines, has been named one of the 100 most influential Filipino women in the world.
Robredo received the award from the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) on Tuesday, August 23, during the group’s 13th annual summit at Shangri-La Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City.
Speaking to female leaders attending the 4-day summit, the Vice President shared her thoughts on the role of women in inclusive development.
“Feminism is not about women ruling the world so that our gender will never, ever have to face abuse,” said Robredo. “Feminism is about building bridges of understanding so that the world will no longer need a strict ruler to make it work.”
It was Robredo’s first time to return to Cebu since she assumed her post. She was last in Cebu City on June 30 to administer the oath of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. (READ: Robredo swears in Osmeña as Cebu City mayor)
Robredo, a member of the Liberal Party, won in Cebu during the May 2016 elections with 900,000 votes.
Before running for vice president, she served as Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative for 3 years.
“The more inclusive governance becomes, the more empowered citizens feel, the less we need despots and celebrated heroes,” said Robredo in her speech. “Everybody – women, men, children, and seniors – can become a hero.”
The Vice President vowed to prioritize women empowerment, along with 4 other issues – hunger and food security, rural development, education, and public health. These, she noted, are all “closely interrelated.”
Robredo explained that even in her work as housing chief, “the ability of women to shape their homes and community is a crucial aspect of our plans and strategies.”
On Tuesday morning, the Vice President met with 12 residents of Barangay Luz in Cebu City who were able to acquire their homes through the Community Mortgage Program.
Recently, Robredo streamlined the number of requirements for socialized housing projects from 27 to 9, saying this would help in efforts to serve more poor families.
Combating domestic violence
Economic empowerment, Robredo also said, is the key for women to be able to get out of abusive relationships.
“Abused women, specifically, find courage to flee abuse only when they experience financial emancipation,” she said.
Before entering politics, Robredo worked as a human rights lawyer for the poor and the abused. She recalled how it was often difficult to pursue cases against abusers.
“I saw too many women lose their identities, their voices, and their very belief in their ability to cope,” she said.
“After working through the night to prepare their cases, most of them would be no-shows when it was time to face the judge. Eventually, their cases would be dismissed for lack of interest, with the wives back in the same cycle with abusive husbands.”
Domestic violence is a core advocacy of the US-based FWN. Every year, they hold a campaign against domestic violence in the Filipino American community – a move spurred by the case of Claire Joyce Tempongko, a Filipino woman murdered in San Francisco in 2000. (READ: Violence against women: Goodbye to Jesus)
Robredo noted that one out of 5 Filipino women aged 15-49 still suffers from physical violence.
“Our women and children are also facing new threats. There are emerging forms of violence brought about by technology,” she said. “It will take all of us – women, men, gays and lesbians, to change this.” – Rappler.com