The 2023 National Women’s Month Celebration jumpstarts a new recurring theme: WE for gender equality and inclusive society.
The word WE in this theme, means Women and Everyone. The PCW believes that the work for gender equality is a two-way street. In this street, we have women who believe in themselves, who nurture their innate potentials, who embrace and rally for empowerment, and who lift their fellow women. These women are not afraid to take the opportunities that are rightfully theirs; They have courage to utilize the benefits already available. They are bold and dauntless to be agents of change. On the other side of the street, everyone must also do their part in empowering women. Everyone of us must make sure that when women are willing and confident to assert equal rights and opportunities – these are provided to them; That when women seek equal representation and participation in fields and industries – they will be heard. That when women are ready to be part of nation building – they are given the space to do so.
WE – women and everyone, WE must be together in this pursuit toward gender equality. In the Global Gender Gap Report, at the current rate of progress, with the global gender gap being closed by only 68.1 PERCENT, it will take 132 years to reach gender equality worldwide, a stark difference from the figure of 99.5 years in the 2020 report. Hence, this means that none of us, or most likely many of our children, will see gender parity in our lifetimes. But not all hope is gone because our fight for gender equality today can still lead to a better and gender-equal tomorrow, for the next generations.
The PCW also calls for inclusivity. Envision a society where everyone is afforded their rights, no matter the gender, class, status, and ability. A society that overrides differences, a society where no one is left behind.
This 2023, we particularly call attention to the need for equality and inclusivity in the field of technology, innovation, and ICT, in line with the International Women’s Day theme: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.”
As our reliance on digital technology grows, this discussion becomes crucial and urgent, even. Our daily lives are now characterized by numerous digital interactions: we pay for groceries using mobile wallets, communicate with colleagues through email, navigate locations using mobile apps, connect with loved ones on social media, and access education and entertainment through video streaming platforms.
Indeed, digital technologies have brought convenience in many ways, contributed to economic growth, increased opportunities, and enhanced delivery of services. However, their overall effect on the population has not been evenly distributed. Typically, disadvantaged groups such as the poor, rural population, and other marginalized sectors have lagged behind in reaping the benefits.
Under our Updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Plan 2019-2025, the PCW identified two major issues relative to science, technology, and innovation or STI and information and communications technology or ICT.
One, it showed that the benefits of technology, innovation, and ICT are not being fully realized or felt by women and girls. Hence, we urge agencies and development partners to prioritize and optimize opportunities for women in these areas. Our objective is to ensure that rural women reap the rewards of agricultural advancements, that freelancers are capacitated to contribute to the gig economy, that women micro entrepreneurs use technology and digital platforms to enhance, package, and promote their products, girls have access to digital skills and tools that can enhance their education, and more women leverage ICT in their jobs or careers.
Secondly, the PCW advocates for greater representation of women in senior technical and leadership roles in the fields of technology, innovation, and ICT. The Expanded Data Analysis and Policy Research for National ICT Household Survey 2019 states that while the gender gap in the total number of people who finished ICT degrees has been minimal, the labor participation of women (70%) with ICT degrees are lower by 23 percentage points compared to men (93%). Thus, our aim is to create a level playing field that enables women to enroll in related courses, obtain equal support as male researchers, innovators, and ICT counterparts, and occupy leadership positions that will empower them to drive progress and instigate positive change in these sectors.
Intersecting these challenges are other factors and concerns. For one, there is unpaid care work that may hinder women and girls to hone technology-related skills with their time spent on household responsibilities. There is inadequate digital infrastructure that may affect those who are in remote areas. Furthermore, there is a need for more supportive policies and laws that could encourage women to pursue ICT-related careers.
Moreso, with the dangers and risks that come with digital immersion, the PCW calls for the strengthening of protection measures in this realm. There should be no room for privacy breach, gender stereotypes, body shaming, sexual harassment, electronic VAW, and trafficking in persons in cyberspace. Instead, let’s make digital their space safe, connect, inspire, thrive, and excel.
Thus, the PCW looks forward to collective and strengthened efforts toward our targets under STI and ICT. Let us eliminate barriers to women’s equal access to ICT, increase the affordability and use of technology and boost digital literacy for women, develop and enhance communications infrastructure in geographically isolated and rural areas, develop programs that will leverage the power of ICTs to address persistent inequality and ICT issues such as women’s lack of access to banks, financial products, market information, among others.
All of these goals are in line with what we aim for under the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028: deep social transformation, inclusive growth, equal opportunities, and innovative and globally competitive economy.
Indeed, gender equality is a key to inclusive development in the country. Hence, this is not just a women’s issue but a human rights concern that affects everyone. When individuals are treated equally, they can reach their full potential, and the society as a whole can benefit from the contributions of all its members, especially with women comprising half the population of our country.
To development partners, government agencies, private institutions, civil society organizations, academe, local government units from provinces to barangays – let us commit and take concrete actions toward the fulfillment of women’s rights and welfare. Consistent with the Magna Carta of Women, let us eradicate discrimination against women in all forms and in all aspects. Together, we can make gender equality a possibility and eventually, a reality.
Lastly, to all women and girls, this celebration is all about you. This month and beyond, revel in your strength, magnificence, brilliance, resilience, and power. Remember, you can be pioneers, leaders, changemakers, and movers. In every family, every community, every island of the nation – you can make a difference, you can be an inspiration.
Women and everyone, WE are for gender equality, WE are for an inclusive society.