EDITORIAL: Empowering Women

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Women’s contribution to our society has been countless, but disproportions evidently remain between the fulfillment of their needs, and the services and protections afforded them by the government.

In our country, their edge in literacy over men has not translated in the area of employment. Women still lag behind men in the work force. What this reality clearly underscores is the fact that our educated women remain under-tapped in this growing economy.

Gender discrimination in a predominantly patriarchal society like ours, remains a continuing heart-breaking truth in many institutions.

Women are kept out of the job market because they are expected to perform bulk of the reproductive labor including household chores and child rearing. They also have difficulty in pursuing professional careers and higher paying occupation when companies are unable to provide facilities for child-care. Therefore, women have been hindered from pursuing the same opportunities as men by cultural and institutional barriers.

The passage of the Magna Carta for Women (MCW) duly highlighted the need to fight sexual discrimination in the workplace. Despite this, the gender gap in employment rates persists presenting a never-ending challenge.

The prevailing sexism has humiliating effects on the status of women in our country. One of the most alarming examples is the widespread violence against women.

The actual experience of violence confronts women everywhere. Whether in the workplace or on the streets, women face the threats of sexual harassment, abuse and rape. Even in the confines of their own homes, many among them are more vulnerable because of domestic abuse. Women ironically feel most vulnerable in the very domain in which they are traditionally tasked to care for others. And in many situations, the government is not always equipped to deal with domestic violence affecting women.

Continued violence against women is an even more pressing concern.

One of the major laws considered as a victory among women is the Reproductive Health (RH) Law that empowers women in intensely significant ways. RH Law is not only a health measure, its full implementation is part of an anti-poverty strategy that ultimately hopes to fully empower women.

The passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003 has significant effect in curbing illegal recruitment schemes, seeking to stop the abuse and sexual exploitation of women.

Although significant advancement has been made in the status and welfare of women over the years, many challenges still remain.

In many countries women are achieving equality in health outcomes and school enrollment rates, but does not have the same kind of progress when it comes to gender equity in economic opportunity. Women consistently trail men in formal labor force participation, access to credit, income levels, entrepreneurship rates, and ownership rights.

But evidence shows that putting economic resources in women’s hands is the best way to accelerate development and sustainably reduce poverty.

In this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day and National Women’s Month, the theme “We make change, Work for Women” emphasizes that women should be active drivers in bringing about positive changes in our country, and that they should also gain from fruits of development efforts. This can be made possible by empowering women – enabling them to meaningfully engage with other development stakeholders.

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