Words by: Andrea Sangco
Photos by: Jhanine Caoile
In partnership with UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, SPARK! Philippines hosted the Women 2020 Summit: Women in the Next Decade this March to celebrate this year’s Women’s Month. The talk featured female change-makers and inspiring leaders who championed women empowerment and gender equality as the key catalysts to address barriers that prevent women from being fully active in initiating positive changes to bring about a brighter and prosperous future for our society.
Samira Gutoc, Jamela Alindogan, Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles, Amina Evangelista Swaneopoel and Kylie Versoza
The summit addressed the impediments on women’s active engagement in various advocacy and nation-building activities which are deeply rooted in the ancient patriarchal systems of sexism, oppression and subordination. Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles from the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies calls for an intersectional approach that concerns one’s positionality in society’s unequal power relations to addressing these gender-related issues, especially for those women who belong to the marginalized and oppressed sectors of the society.
Hindrances on women’s participation in nation-building and global progress include gender oppression, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, under-representation, lack of autonomy on one’s body and unequal access to reproductive health services, and mental illnesses. All of these were directly tackled by women from their respective fields who shared their experiences of advocating their rights and the steps they undertook to get to where they are now.
How did these women advocate gender equality and empowerment?
Dalareich Polot, Coleen Awit, Meggie Ochoa and Dr. Gia Sison on a panel discussion.
For Marvi Rebueno Trudeau of Pilipinas Shell Foundation points out gender differences take the shape of gender inequality which systematically determine health risks, access to health and health outcomes. Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa emphasizes the importance of giving equal attention on problems relating to mental health among women. National Adviser of Youth for Mental Health Coalition Dr. Gia Sison shares her experience of surviving cancer and the importance of looking after one’s self and mental outlook to enable one’s self to further make meaningful impact to people taking the same journey of cancer survivorship. CEO of Ginto Fine Chocolates Corp., Dalareich Polot shares her success journey to a booming chocolate business that started when she was truly inspired by her mother who made tableas out of cacaos from their backyards.
Filipina Jiu Jitsu Athlete Meggie Ochoa
PBCWE Executive Director Julia Abad advocates increase in participation and advancement of women in the workplace and creating spaces where misogyny is not tolerated. Fight to Protect Founder Meggie Ochoa shares her journey of countering online sexual exploitation among the youth through teaching her passion of Jiu Jitsu. Amina Evangelista Swaneopoel, the founding Executive Director of Roots of Health stresses how imperative reproductive health services are to provide women with full autonomy on their bodies and safe birth control methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Climate warrior Coleen Awit of Coal-Free Negros and REpower Negros movement advocates for a just shift to a clean energy-efficient and energy-resilient Negros and environmental conservation by empowering the youth.
Women Leaders on Empowering Women
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte conversed on empowering women through gender-responsive governance and the goal of prioritizing education reforms that genuinely empower students no matter the gender. Senator Grace Poe highlighted women’s role in policy implementation and decision-making on legislations as still being restrictive and limited. However, she adds that upholding the rights and interests of marginalized sectors, particularly women have always been part of her legislative advocacy.
Samira Gutoc on her speech about women’s involvement in peace-building.
Commissioner of Bangsamoro Transition Commission Samira Gutoc asserts that the biggest impediment to women empowerment the inability to interpret doctrines as against women because these are mostly interpreted by men. On peace-building, she brought a malong as a saving weapon, a symbolism of the things that the people lack when harsh force is implemented and questioned if the government provided ‘malongs’ in a society that needed shelter. participation in decision-making is needed to make resolutions possible to counter terrorism.
Vice President Leni Robredo at Women 2020 Summit.
As for Vice President Leni Robredo, who is finding solutions for poverty-related problems, it is the women of the community who are freed from disempowerment. Her anti-poverty flagship program Angat Buhay continues to embark on the margins and extend help to disadvantaged communities as she shares stories of the women she encountered. “Be the bridge. Be the bridge between ideals and tangible realities, between the horizon and the trenches, between the futures we envision and the daily grind. Empower one woman and she herself will raise others with her,” she adds with finality.