by Venice Angelic S. Cellan, Kiwalan National High School

“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay” is a remarkable quote by Simone de Beauvoir to awaken something that is very essential and that has been through nightmares so it will rise from its misery. A flower needs to be treated with sufficient care for it to bloom beautifully and stand toughly that even the strong wind cannot blow it away from its stem and the scorching heat of the sun will not dry it up. This refers to the people who have shaped history and the future and the women who have suffered injustice and inequality. Just like a flower that has been neglected until its petals slowly falls to the ground, women were discriminated based on their femininity. The problem of women’s place in the society has never been considered to be important because women are weaker than men and that women often have a harder time in achieving their goals in life. So, as time marches on, women clawed and fought their way to gain the much needed respect from the opposite sex. With this circumstance, they are no longer afraid to let their voice, which shouts for justice and equality, be heard and act to prove their worth and the importance of their existence not just in the society but also in the world. Like a rebirth of their existence and like a rebirth of a flower that blooms to aspire for freedom, the long struggle of women has developed women’s right movements and has created laws to protect the women against intersecting forms of discrimination.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement in 1937 in the Philippine Constitution was one of the first major occasions in which women grouped together politically. It was also one of the first women’s movements that protect the right for women to vote and run for office. The Women’s Suffrage Movement on gender equality came about with the women’s movements, increased numbers of women political representatives, increased numbers of educated women, greater specificity on women’s issues instituted under legislation, and the focused application of those laws. The Republic Act No. 9710, known as the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), which is mandated by the Philippine Government, is a comprehensive Women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate the discrimination against Filipino women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling, and especially promoting the rights of Filipino women. It conveys a framework of women’s rights based directly on the International Law. The MCW promotes  women’s rights and protects women especially those belonging to the marginalized sectors in the society. According to the MCW, the marginalized sectors are defined as those who belong to the basic, disadvantaged, and vulnerable groups who are mostly living in poverty and have little or no access to land or other resources, basic, social and economic services such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, employment and livelihood opportunities, housing security, physical infrastructure and the justice system. Based on the MCW, the Philippine Government, as the primary duty-bearer, is tasked to refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights, to protect the women against discrimination from private corporations, entities and individuals, to promote and fulfill the rights of women in all spheres especially their rights to substantive equality and non-discrimination. It shall also establish mechanisms to promote the coherent and integrated implementation of the MCW at all levels. In its entirety, the Philippine Government shall fulfill these responsibilities through the development and implementation of laws, policies, regulatory instruments, administrative guidelines and other appropriate measures.

This year’s theme, “Woman/hood: Changing Tapestries for Change” and its sub-theme, “Changing Society Through Economic Partnership and Shared Responsibility: Towards Gender Equality” embodies the change for women to empower themselves to confidently engage with the appropriate institutions to ensure that they contribute to and avail of the development and changes of their function in the society. The process of making change work for women is needed in toughening the MCW at all aspects. It means applying and doing the action of making programs and services that aim to target strategic gender needs of women. The theme emphasizes that women should be active in fulfilling their roles in the society. On the other hand, men should respect and be cooperative to their female counterparts in their shared responsibilities in the society. Thus, women’s empowerment will make a change by letting women to meaningfully engage with other development stakeholders and do their part in the economic participation. Making this happen may involve making changes in the laws and reshaping the views and actions of individuals.

The good outcomes in giving importance in women’s empowerment in changing their role in the society come in many ways. First, entire nations, communities, businesses, and individuals will benefit with the implementation of programs and services that adopt the conceptions of women’s empowerment. Empowerment of women is a necessity for the very development of the society since it enhances both the quality and quantity of human resource development. Investing in women has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency, and economic growth. Targeting gender equality and women’s rights is also smart economics. Women are the key agents of change and when women and men are equal, economies will grow faster; less people will remain in poverty and the overall well-being of people increases. Harnessing women’s potential as economic actors, leaders and consumers results in a higher level of industrialization in all levels. Secondly, women bring a different perspective. They are more sensitive to environmental degradation and have concerns and ideas for change. With women empowered to play a full part in the decision making at all levels, environmental sustainability will be achieved and economic growth rates will be sustained. Lastly, women’s empowerment lies in its ability to bring in gender equality in the society and mend the gap between men and women. Women’s empowerment brings an equilibrium in the society that is highly dominated by men. It allows women to redistribute gender roles and to organize in order to promote leadership and partnership. Women’s empowerment does not only mean to earn a living and improve the society but is also an opportunity to challenge many gender stereotypes and discrimination, to aim for an equitable society, and to improve the voice and the participation of political and basic social spheres.  Moreover, women empowerment helps the women to get rid of the social violence and atrocities against them. It helps them to be aware of their surroundings and the society in which they live will make them the participating members of the society and will help them fight for their rights.

In conclusion, it is possible to say that for one and a half century of its existence, the women’s movement on gender equality has become a phenomenon in the social sphere. Women’s empowerment is a belief that women should be treated the same as men not because women are better than men but because women are also human beings and they have the same rights as men in any society, in any time period. It gives the equal status of women and men which creates a frictionless environment for women. Women are highly responsible for the continuation of life in this planet. They have played a great role and we cannot imagine success without them. As observed, there is always a woman behind a man’s success and without thinking, man cannot be productive and be inspired to raise a family that is productive, and become the responsible citizen in building the nation. Men and women should realize their respective goals and strive to complement each other to improve life.

*This essay is the 2nd runner up entry for the On-Spot-Essay Writing Contest 2018 hosted by the English Department of CASS  in celebration of the Women’s Month*

Venice Angelic S. Cellan is a graduate from the Technical Vocational Livelihood Strand from Kiwalan National High School. She was able to garner the award as The Journalist Of the Year and she is a Gawad Kalumbayan awardee. From her high school years, she had always joined literary contests and she always had a dream to be an aspiring writer someday. She is now taking up the course- Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies at the Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology.

Topics : essay contest  women’s month  creative nonfiction  women  women empowerment