Press Release
November 12, 2019

International Conference Women Today: Innovators and Agents of the Future
Manila Marriott Hotel
Nov. 12, 2019, 2 p.m.

Isang magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

Before I start, I'd like to share a compilation of some differences between men and women.

Ang lalaki, may anim na gamit sa banyo: toothbrush, toothpaste, pang-ahit, shaving cream, bimpo, at sabon. Samantala, ang average na bilang ng gamit sa banyo ng babae, mga 337.

Kapag bibili ang isang babae ng shampoo, magbabasa siya ng product reviews, hihingi ng payo sa mga kaibigan, manonood ng mga patalastas. Ang mga lalaki, pagpasok, kung ano na lang ang makuha, 'yun na lang ang kukunin, at hihiram ng shampoo kapag naubusan.

Ang babae ang may huling salita sa anumang argumento. Anumang sabihin ng lalaki pagkatapos noon, simula ng panibagong argumento.

Ang babae, pinakakasalan ang lalaki sa pag-asang magbabago siya. Ang lalaki, pinakakasalan ang babae at umaasang hindi siya magbabago, pero magbabago siya. Ang mga babae, habang tumatagal, naiiba rin kung paano tayo nakikitungo sa isa't isa.

Sabi nga ni Eleanor Roosevelt: Ang babae, parang tsaa, hindi mo aakalain ang tapang niya hanggang malubog sa mainit na tubig o sa hamon ng buhay.

I've been asked to speak about Women as Citizens. Simply put, a citizen is one who belongs to a nation, and as such enjoys particular rights and privileges.

The Philippine Constitution makes no distinction between men and women. It says everyone shall enjoy equal protection under the laws.

But when the Constitution was drafted in 1986, the Commissioners took into consideration the reality that women were a marginalized sector and did not enjoy the same opportunities as men. Hence, a section was included which imposed on the State the duty to value the "role of women in nation-building, and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men."

But women's roles in nation-building still appear restrictive. Being a woman in a leadership position has always been a challenge. When a man is tough and is a no-nonsense boss, they call him a leader. But when a woman is tough, they call us a?

Unfair, right? Does this mean that Filipinos prefer their men to be strong leaders and their women to be meek followers? Well, let's take a look at the numbers.

According to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), a survey done from 2004 to 2016, showed that women have encompassed only 17 percent of the national and local candidates.

Yet, more than half of registered voters in the last three elections were women.

In the Philippine Senate which is composed of 24 senators, only 7 are women. Ang isa nakakulong pa.

Only one female has ever served in a leadership position within the Senate, namely, Loren Legarda as the majority leader. But no woman has ever assumed the rank of Senate President.

Meanwhile in Congress only 28.6 percent are women.

In the recent years, women have occupied a little less than 20 percent in local government units.

For the Executive Branch, the cabinet-level appointments have remained mostly male-dominated since 1986. No woman has ever headed the Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Local Government, and Public Works departments.

These percentages mirror the statistics of women in industry and commerce. The gender disparities in terms of participation in both political as well as economic arenas point to deeper systemic issues.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2017, there were about 25 million male salary and wage workers in the Philippines compared to only 15 million female salary and wage workers. Why are there less women in the labor force?

Furthermore, 35 percent of women aged 15 up are involved in unpaid domestic work. What is unpaid domestic work? Sila ang mga nanay na nanatili sa bahay. Inaalagaan ang kanilang mga anak at asawa. Wala namang masama dito. Ako rin, kahit nagtatrabaho sa Senado ay patuloy na nagiging isang maybahay at nanay ng tatlong anak

Pero ang ibig ko lang pong sabihin, higit pa ang ating magagawa kung bibigyan tayo ng oportunidad para tumulong sa pagpapaunlad at pagsasaayos ng ating bayan at lipunan.

In fact, we have our share of inspiring stories. These two, show that Filipinas have both brains and brawns.

Sino ang ating champion na weightlifter? Hindi lalaki, kundi babae. Si Hidilyn Diaz, when she started, she didn't have any support. She just used whatever she had around the house, cans and cement, and that's what she used to train herself to become a weightlifter.

It was a hard climb, she was born in a small village in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. When she was in elementary school, she had to accompany her father, who was a tricycle driver, to sell vegetables and fish.

But she made it. She won as the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal of any color.

The other Filipina is Isabel Sieh, founder of Girls Will Code. Age is nothing but a number because Isabel started this at the age of 10. She learned computer languages such as HTML and JavaScript by taking online classes. Her mom is a friend of mine.

Her passion for coding led her to start Girls Will Code. Their mission is to provide activities that close the gender gap in tech, by encouraging young girls to develop better technological skills and solutions.

She eventually got her partnerships with big companies such as Google and Accenture which helped her grow Girls Will Code. Now she's around 17 or 18 years old.

Now, what was I doing when I was 10? I think my favorite subject was recess. Well, I was into sports, I did taekwondo in high school.

As I look around this room, majority of the audience is composed of seemingly empowered and educated women. But are we the majority? The panel earlier was excellent, part of the panel are women I admire.

To bring on change, we need inspiring individuals, but we also need a grassroots movement. To eliminate discrimination, efforts must be exerted by government, NGOs, the private sector, so that it is a whole of society approach.

As Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator once said, "Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off. But if you don't have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.

Tayong mga kababaihan should ensure that our organizations and workplaces are safe and empowering for women.

Your companies should be free from discrimination. I filed the Senate Bill No. 315 or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex or gender or sexual orientation, language, disability, or educational attainment in schools and in places of work.

Let us also ensure that our offices are free from sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. I co-authored the Safe Spaces Act or what is called, "Bawal ang Bastos."

But what good are rights, if a person is hungry or abused or without access to education and a decent means of employment or livelihood.

Without the financial means to receive a proper education, generations after generations would be prevented from achieving social mobility and attaining equal opportunities. This in turn, prevents them from earning higher wages and entrenching them farther into poverty.

At may nagsabi, "If you educate a woman, you educate a family." Ang nanay kasi, mahilig magpayo, so natututo tayo mas lalo sa kanya.

Women should also have better access to capital. "When you give a small loan and support to a woman, you see the entire family potentially lifted out of extreme poverty." That is another quote.

Sabi nga ni Wash Sycip, napansin niya na ang mga babae mas maasahan magbayad ng utang.

Education, access to capital, employment, equal opportunities in the workplace are crucial in empowering women.

Behind every successful man is a woman. Narinig na ninyo 'yan. But behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women. You know this first hand, when you have your friends cheering you on. Let us help each other.

Sa inyong lahat, magtulungan po tayo. Maraming salamat po.

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