Press Release
November 20, 2007

Loren lauds empowerment of indigenous Filipinas

Senator Loren Legarda said yesterday that more and more indigenous Filipino women are either getting elected into public offices or earning distinctions in their chosen fields of endeavor.

"The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples say that indigenous women face double discrimination in many areas of the world," said Loren.

"Discriminated against for their ethnicity and for their gender, in a developing country like ours, economic marginalization can add an even greater burden."

But Loren, in her speech before the Cordillera Indigenous Elected Women Leaders' League, said that Filipino women in general are slowly triumphing in breaking societal and cultural barriers in empowering themselves.

She cited as an example of this the election to government posts by members of the Cindowell, who made Loren an honorary member of their group.

Cindowell also accorded Loren the title "Tukwifi" or "Bright Star" for her effort to uplift the lives of indigenous peoples.

"But being elected is not the end. While it is an achievement in itself, its greater significance lies in the opportunity to serve and represent our women constituents," Loren said.

She lamented that while the country already have had two women presidents, a large number of Filipino women continue to live in poverty, are denied equal opportunities to chart their future and a chance to make positive impact on society.

"Our gathering today therefore represents our solidarity and our commitment to consolidate our efforts to advance the welfare of women, specifically indigenous women," she told fellow Cindowell members.

Her "Tukwifi" title is the second such accolade she had received from indigenous groups, the first being that of Bai Alabi or Honorary Muslim Princess from the Marawi Sultanate League.

"Empowerment comes from knowing. What better way to serve our constituents than first knowing the problems and circumstances that they face, understanding their priority needs and being able to formulate appropriate plans and programs to address their concern," she said.

The senator traced with Cindowell members the participative history of Filipinas in nation-building, including being the first in Asia to earn the right to vote and the first in Asia to have a woman president.

"Women voters account for half of the country's total voting population and have consistently, though slightly, outnumbered men in terms of voters turnout in the past elections," she said.

Nonetheless, Loren stressed that indigenous women and Filipinas in general still have a long way to go to achieve their dreams of societal equality.

"For one, indigenous women struggle against language, culture, religion and class discrimination. In some conflict areas, indigenous women struggle against violence and displacement from their communities," said Loren.

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