Before the coming of the Spaniards, the social structure in the Philippines is neither a patriarchy nor a matriarchy. Both men and women are considered as “good leaders” before the 16th century. Although, men are considered as most preferred by many as evidenced by rulers in the like of Humabon, Lapulapu, Solaiman, Sikatuna and the like, women equally share leadership prowess and, in fact, in some instances, women leading figures like Gabriela Silang was brave and courageous when she need to continue the fight of her husband, Diego. Also, in the process of choosing a successor of a Datu, the daughter could be one of the choices.
In pre-Hispanic era, men and women had equal rights. Women had the right to inherit property and they also had important parts in commerce and trading. They would weave, do pottery and make jewelries to be used for exchanging in the market, in other tribes and other foreign traders like the Chinese. They controlled the operations of transactions because their husbands were not allowed to barter unless their wives approved.
Our history told us that before the Spanish colonial rule, there was this tradition of female mystical healers whose spiritual connectedness was a source of political and social powers. These Babaylan women serve as intermediaries between spiritual and material realms in their respective communities. Women also served as warriors, healers, priestesses and thinkers.
However, Spanish rule suppressed women’s inherent rights and freedom. They were enslaved when the Spaniards came
While women in the Western part of the world were dominated by men, Filipina women choose to prove their worth and took in active role in their fight for freedom. During the 19th century, women did not sit idly, but rather fought alongside men compatriots. Gabriela Silang, Gregoria de Jesus, Melchora Aquino also known as Tandang Sora were among prominent Filipina icons of the revolution.
Today, we can consider that women won long-enduring battles. In governance, Gender and Development is already part of government mandate. National government agencies are mandated to formulate and implement their GAD programs, while Local Government Units (LGUs) are obliged to set aside five percent of its annual budget for GAD.
In each program, projects and activities in both national and local agencies of the government, including the barangay, they were required that this at least addresses gender issues and concerns in order to close the gap between men and women, and ensure equality to both men and women.
Empowering women should not only be limited to capacity-building and trainings, but rather on how to make them efficient agents and catalysts of change in their respective fields, and in their communities. Women have proven that they can make drastic changes and help improve the lives of the people in their respective communities.
This month of March 2023, we celebrate International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month recognizing the significant roles of women. On this celebration, we also celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and to inspire future generations of women to build on our progress of building a just and equal world, for everyone. Women can do what men can. But men cannot gestate nor lactate.