Women's Rights in the PhilippinesSeveral policies focus on advancing women’s rights in the Philippines to increase women’s empowerment and gender equality. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light gender disparities that make women’s rights progressions as urgent as ever.

Barriers for Women in the Workplace

Women’s rights in the Philippines, particularly in the workforce, are progressing. According to the 2021 Global Gender Gap report, the Philippines ranks 17th globally in gender equality, having closed 78.4% of its gender gap. A major role player in the Philippines’ gender equality advancements is the Philippine Magna Carta for Women, a comprehensive human rights law enacted in 2009 to abolish discrimination against Filipino women.

Despite this progression, female participation in the workforce is low, standing at just 49%—one of the lowest rates in the East Asia and Pacific region (EAP) compared to the regional average of 59%. According to the World Bank, progression in female workforce participation rates has seen minimal improvement since 1990. Since 2015, this gap has reduced by just 0.3%.

The lack of participation of women in the labor force hinders opportunities for the nation’s overall economic growth.  The World Bank says, “An increase of women’s labor supply by a mere 0.5 percentage points per year would increase gross domestic product (GDP) per capita by about 6% by 2040 and almost 10% by 2050.”

Barriers to Workforce Participation

A 2021 World Bank report on women’s economic empowerment explores the barriers to women’s participation in the Philippines’ labor force, including societal norms and beliefs.

The report’s survey on women’s work and childcare reveals that about 75% of Filipino males and 80% of Filipino women believe that men should be the breadwinners and women should bear the responsibility of caretaking and household chores. Further, more than 70% of men and 76% of women believe that a mother’s employment negatively impacts “the emotional and psychosocial development skills of a preschool child.” The World Bank has made policy recommendations to increase women’s participation in the labor force. This includes implementing “alternatives to child-care in the home” programs and promoting flexible work structures, such as remote work and e-commerce platforms.

The Magna Carta of Women

The Magna Carta of Women aims to abolish gender discrimination and protect women’s rights in the Philippines through a comprehensive definition of what constitutes gender discrimination. The law sets out extensive protections for women ranging from protection against violence to representation in male-dominated work sectors.

The Magna Carta of Women protects women from “all forms of violence” and ensures compulsory training on gender sensitivity for government staff  who work in sectors “involved in the protection and defense of women against gender-based violence.”

The law calls for more women representation in male-dominated fields, such as the police and military sectors. Women must also have equal rights regarding “marriage and family relations,” among many other rights such as equal opportunities to participate in sports.

Women’s Empowerment in the Workforce

In March 2022, at The Manila Times Online Business Forum called “Empowered Women Powering Changes,” chairperson and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton, Marivic Españo said the Philippines boasts a high percentage of females in leadership roles.

According to Españo, in 2021, about 48% of Filipino women worked in senior leadership roles; however, this rate declined in 2022 to 39%. Despite the decrease, the Philippines still ranks fourth-highest in the world for rates of women in senior leadership roles.

Abigail Tina del Rosario, Maybank Philippines president and CEO, says women in the Philippines fare better than women in other countries in terms of academics, the professional arena, the political sphere and the legislative sphere.

The Philippines has resources in place to protect women’s rights in the workplace, like the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Law and the Telecommuting Law that allows females to work from home.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges women in the Philippines face, policies and laws are in place to advance women’s rights in the country to empower women and eliminate gender inequality.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women’s Rights in the Philippines
Women in the Philippines took to the streets on June 11, 2018, to protest the sexist remarks made by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte in reaction to recent scandals. Women in the march for equality claim that it is time they are treated equally especially by their government and its officials. This is part of a larger movement of women’s rights in the Philippines that has been growing over the past few years.

Protest Day

The day of the protest saw unrelenting rain and gloom yet over 1,000 women and men took to the streets to protest Duterte. Some of the protesters’ main grievances against their president were his remarks about encouraging sexual assault between soldiers and female rebels, and his unapologetic joking about violence against women.

The women’s march was largely mobilized by an online movement that became viral in the Philippines through the hashtag, #BabaeAko, which translates to I am a Woman. This online trend was similar to the #MeToo movement and created a space for women to voice their experiences with misogyny.

The Progress of Recent Years

These movements, however, were not a new trend, as many advancements have been made in women’s rights in the Philippines in recent years. In 2015, the Philippines moved up in the Global Gender Gap Index from ninth place to seventh place. Women’s rights in the Philippines also saw a promising progression in the same year through its advanced ranking in the World Economic Forum report measuring gender equality. Out of 145 countries globally, the Philippines has the best ranking for gender equality in the Asia-Pacific region.

The World Economic Forum reported that the recent progression of women’s rights in the Philippines is largely due to higher female economic participation and opportunity. This was seen most influentially through its rising number of female legislators, officials, and managers. The country also saw an increasing rate of female professional and technical workers.

Noteworthy Legislation

These great advancements are largely due to the many initiatives in the Philippine government that attempt to advance women’s rights and eliminate violence against women. One of the major accomplishments is the passage of the Republic Act No. 9262, which is also known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act. This act was signed into law on March 8, 2004, as part of International Women’s Day.

This law criminalizes violence against women and children, including abuse and assault, within intimate relationships as well as within the family. This act also created the Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and Their Children. This council is made up of 12 departments, each with a different focus to ensure equal treatment of women under the law. Some of these include Social Welfare and Development, Health, Education, Welfare of Children, Justice, and more.

The Philippine Commission on Women, a committee that is part of the Philippine government, currently is engaged in multiple projects. One of their major projects is titled The Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women Project 2, set to be completed between 2014 and 2020. This development is a sequel to a project of the same name that was enacted between 2006 and 2013. The current initiative focuses on the need for scaling-up women-led micro-businesses, increasing local resources to develop female leaders, and engaging corporations to accelerate the growth of women’s businesses.

The Philippines is taking great strides at both the governmental and civil level. Philippine citizens demand higher standards regarding the treatment of women from their government officials, and also empower themselves and others through an online community. The Philippine government also works to ensure a progression in women’s rights through its many projects, and the successful outcomes of these initiatives are seen as the Philippines rises in world rankings for gender equality.

These trends for women’s rights in the Philippines seem to only increase in quantity and successfulness as the years go on. As women’s rights move to the forefront in many nations across the globe, the Philippines continues to be a strong advocate.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr