The Role of Gender in Social Transformation: The Philippine Experience
WHEN my grandmother, Francisca Tirona -Benitez (one of its seven women founders) was the President of the Philippine Womens University, she established the Civic Assembly of the Philippines, now known as National Council of Women of the Philippines (NCWP), comprising different women associations.
In 1975, the NCWP lobbied for the creation of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) as the policymaking body of the Philippine President and Cabinet for the advancement of Filipino women, in response to the United Nations declaration of 1975 as International Womens Year. NCRFW was established through Presidential Decree #633. What a turn of events that 25 years later, I was privileged to serve as chair of the commission.
Role of national machinery in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women
The concept of gender mainstreaming first surfaced in 1985 during the UN Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi. Gender mainstreaming was seen as a means to promote the role of women in development and to integrate womens values in development work. (Group of Specialists on Mainstreaming, 1998).
As national machinery for the advancement of Filipino women, the NCRFW serves as the advisory body to the President and Cabinet on matters concerning women. The commission was established to influence policy, provide direction, coordinate and monitor actions to promote womens advancement. One of the oldest national machineries on women in Asia, NCRFW has achieved substantial gains in legislative advocacy, formulation of gender-responsive policies and plans, and identification of useful strategies and mechanisms for promoting gender equality and womens empowerment, the NCRFW has pioneered gender mainstreaming in the region and has produced several tools and gender kits to make the work sustainable.
The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) examined issues related to the promotion of womens economic rights and independence, including access to and control over economic resources, markets, trade and employment, particularly in the context of globalization. It endorsed gender mainstreaming as a strategy for promoting equality between women and men, addressing the economic potential and empowerment of women. The outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (2000) emphasized the importance of the gender mainstreaming strategy in key macroeconomic and social development policies and national development programs, as well as the important role of women in macroeconomic decision making. Conclusions reached by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 1997 on gender mainstreaming highlighted the important role of national machineries.
Gender is an issue because fundamental differences and inequalities between women and men exist, manifesting in different ways. The elements to explore are: a) inequalities in political power (access to decision-making, representation, etc.); b) inequalities within households; c) differences in legal status and entitlements; d) gender division of labor within the economy; e) inequalities in the domestic/unpaid sector; f) violence against women; g) discriminatory attitudes.
The Gender and Development (GAD) recognized women as agents of development, not merely as passive recipients of development assistance. GAD questions the relations between women and men and the gender roles ascribed to them. Seeing gender division of labor as the root cause of inequality, GAD as an approach to development questions the differential impact of current social, economic and political structures on the way women and men participate in, benefit from, and control project resources and activities. Here lies the social construction of gender and the assignment of roles, expectations, and responsibilities. Women in relation to men is the crux of the GAD approach.
The GAD perspective recognizes that gender concerns cut across all areas of development; therefore, it should not be overlooked in the development planning process. …