THE Philippines has consistently topped the gender equality rankings since the World Economic Forum launched its annual Global Gender Gap Report.
The Philippines is said to have closed 78% of its overall gender gap, showing strong performance in the key areas of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment .
However, there is still a clear call to maintain the dialogues on the role of women in nation building and to strengthen their agenda. We must build on the achievements and continue to improve policies to meet the challenges women face in this era of globalization.
Most are in a poverty trap: vulnerable, are paid less than men or forced to accept unpaid work due to gender roles imposed by society, starting with households. Barriers women face include insufficient access to and control over productive resources and markets, segregation or discrimination in lower-paying jobs, and lack of market-oriented skills and knowledge.
Existing social and gender inequalities have also been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing their vulnerabilities.
We cannot deny the fact that the role of women in society has evolved with the progress we have made. With this in mind, the government has decided to create an environment that will enable women to pursue social enterprises and other opportunities and ensure sustainability and growth.
We have the Magna Carta for MSMEs, which obliges credit institutions to reserve at least 8% of their loan portfolios for micro and small enterprises. It allows the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corp. to provide fixed loans and unsecured working capital loans to micro and small enterprises.
The Barangay Livelihoods and Skills Act, on the other hand, mandates the establishment of livelihoods and skills training centers in 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities for job creation. It ensures that livelihood and skills training offered by the national government is properly coordinated and implemented at the municipal level.
We also have the Agri-Agra Credit Reform Act, which requires banks to allocate 25% of their loanable funds to the agricultural sector to finance the acquisition of draft animals, agricultural equipment or machinery, seeds , fertilizer, livestock, animal feed and/or other similar items.
Empowering women is not just about giving them privileges. Most importantly, it will increase our chances of achieving sustainable development, inclusive growth and improved lives for our people. We must strengthen and invest in women’s economic rights towards a greener and more sustainable economy.
We also need to consider other factors that can hinder the growth of microenterprises: climate change and disaster risk.
Climate change is a big threat, especially to the agricultural value chain. Extreme weather events, such as droughts or excessive rains, greatly affect agriculture. In fact, it is estimated that crop yields will decline towards the end of the century in the absence of climate change interventions.
Social enterprises can build their resilience by knowing the risks and how climate change may affect them. They can create business continuity plans that highlight resilience as an essential feature of operations and develop strategies that advocate for the protection of ecosystems and consider upcoming environmental changes.
Addressing risks that could disrupt the chain and adopting sustainable practices will not only ensure continuity, but also higher quality products.
We can also integrate women’s participation in the goal of transitioning to a green economy. We must support the promotion of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities that are aligned with sustainability, resilience and other principles of a circular economy that I have championed.
A study led by James Heintz on how Covid-19 may lead to a paradigm shift in the economic future implies that the sense of urgency engendered has provided a window of opportunity to lead a feminist paradigm – which incorporates care of people and the planet and uses it to inform policy pathways towards sustainable development.
By adopting gender-responsive policies and programs, we can achieve a greener, cleaner and more sustainable development trajectory. Women are part of the solution.
We must continue our efforts to serve the grassroots, reduce poverty and promote sustainable development while preserving our culture and championing climate action and the environment. We can only achieve this if we also defend the rights of women and children.
It is time for us to provide more opportunities for women in education, work, rural development, governance and leadership. We must also place equal emphasis on improving women’s access to and control over the resources they need to empower themselves economically.
Women must have the financial independence and confidence to generate their own income. They should be empowered to use their skills and talents through the provision of viable income alternatives, training and business development opportunities for those who wish to become entrepreneurs.
Women should be given the support necessary to have the confidence and the means to lead and be at the forefront of efforts to improve Filipino communities and to pursue initiatives that will contribute to decisive actions towards sustainable progress and fair.
I dedicate it to my mother, who turned 76 this week.
The author is executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a non-resident fellow of the Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his Climate Change and Development course at the University of East Anglia and an Executive Program in Sustainability Leadership at Yale University. You can email him at [email protected]