MANILA — A senator on Friday said that more progressive women are needed in the government not only to bring issues about family, gender and equality out into the open but also issues central to democracy.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros made this point during the forum “Equality Makes Sense: A forum on women empowerment in the Philippines” at the Ateneo De Manila University.
“At a time when fake news deadens our senses and distracts us from the truth, we need more progressive women in government because we need to remember,” Hontiveros, former activist, said in her speech.
“We need more progressive women in government because if some men are too afraid to stand up for human dignity, then, it will be the courage of women that will take up the torch, beat the drum, and lead the way,” she added.
Hontiveros stressed that based on statistics, women are doing “very well.”
Citing the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index Report, she said the Philippines ranked third in Asia and 17th worldwide in terms of political empowerment.
She said that the Philippines ranked higher than Malaysia and Singapore in that regard. From 1998 to 2013, there was a steady rise in women’s participation in politics from 16.15 percent (1998) to 19.92 percent (2013).
The neophyte senator further said that in 2010, two women were elected to the Senate, four in 2013 and now six women senators noting that this is the largest number of women in the chamber to date.
However, she said that beyond statistics, the numbers also show how wide the gap is.
She said that in the Senate, six women is only 25 percent the total population of the chamber, which is less than half.
Moreover, she said that no woman has ever served as Senate President despite the institution’s 100-year history.
Instead, she said that within the bureaucracy itself, women are more likely to be technical personnel, while men tend to be clerks, executives, or managers.
She said that because women comprise 50 percent of the country’s population, it is only reasonable to work toward a similar balance in politics.
The senator also noted that women voter turnout in 2013 was at 77.9 percent, while it stood at 77 percent for men.
“There is a need for more women in legislation and in politics because we have just as much to contribute to the national agenda as men, and women are equally powerful role models for men,” Hontiveros said.
She said that she found it “tragic” that women participate so much in the government, but barely occupy half the seats to make a difference.
“The country needs more progressive women in politics because as women have a demonstrated capacity to bring issues of family, gender and equality into the open, women also have the power to help us remember that these are the issues central to a democracy: that governance is inclusive, that dissent is not only vital but necessary, that representation should translate into the sharing of power, and that mere accusation is never proof,” Hontiveros said.