MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo urged women to be fearless in fighting for what is right as she led the celebration of International Women’s Day in the country on Friday, March 8.
Robredo made the call in her keynote address at the International Women’s Day Summit, where she rallied women to break barriers to empowerment.
“This is no longer the time for fear. This is the time to make a stand. This is not the time to hide behind the curtains and let fear cave us into silence. This is the time to be who we are called to be – women who are not afraid to fight for what is right regardless of the cost,” she said in her speech.
While the Philippines may be considered one of the most gender equal countries in the world, the Vice President said much work still needed to be done to remove economic and social barriers that hinder Filipino women’s empowerment.
She lauded newly-enacted laws that favor women such as Republic Act No. 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act and RA 11165 or the Telecommuting Act for work-from-home arrangements, but said such developments should not overshadow the “dark narratives” Filipino women continued to face in a society that “still seems kinder to men.”
“When our leaders joke about rape and normalize abuse, shouldn’t we be alarmed? When reports say that one out of two women did nothing after they were harassed and a lot of those who chose to be silent did so out of fear, shouldn’t we be more scared?” Robredo said. (Not just a joke: The social cost of Duterte’s rape remarks)
She added, “For as long as one woman gets threatened in the dark, raped, and blamed for it because ‘her knees are showing,’ and suffer because ‘babae ka lang naman (you’re just a woman)’ then we have no right to rest on our laurels.”
Robredo herself had earlier said she was subjected to misogynistic remarks while still in the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte. During the 3rd anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2016, Duterte himself joked about the Vice President’s short skirt that showed her knees.
Achieving real empowerment
Robredo said economic empowerment is crucial to help women fight against abuses. (Robredo: Respect for women, gender equality begin at home)
A longtime champion of women empowerment, Robredo said she witnessed this when she did pro-bono work to help abused women in her hometown, Naga City.
“Economic empowerment is the first step to real empowerment. For every woman that is economically independent, the entire family has the chance to break free from abuse and poverty,” she said. (READ: Gender parity at work only possible if men do more at home – U.N.)
Speaking to reporters, elaborated on her point on the importance of economic empowerment.
“Kasi karamihan sa nasalubong namin na mga problema, kahit inaabuso na, parang they would choose to go back to the abusive environment dahil ang pakiramdam niya, hindi niya kayang buhayin iyong sarili niya at saka mga anak,” she said.
(In most of the problems we encountered, women would choose to go back to the abusive environment because she feels that she cannot support herself and her children.)
Robredo also said laws and government institutions should also ensure more participation of women, especially those on the margins of society. She urged women to come together to uplift the lives of one another.
“They say women are inherently strong and resilient. But when women help other women, they become unbreakable. Truly, we are each other’s better halves, or as they say, we are our sisters’ keepers,” she said. – Rappler.com