Gabriela calls on Duterte to include women’s agenda in his first SONA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 July) – The feminist group Gabriela called on President Rodrigo R. Duterte to include the four-point women’s agenda crafted by women across the country in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.

Luz Ilagan, former partylist representatives and now national chair of Gabriela, said that they are hoping to hear Duterte deliver a speech with some points taken from the women’s agenda crafted during the Forum of Women for Action with Rody Duterte (or ForwaRD Women), which was held during the campaign period.

“This is to ensure that in the campaign of the president, there would be some provisions regarding the gender issues at napasok naman yun (all were included). If the President is to give SONA, yan ang binabantayan talaga (everybody is watching out), the President should indicate what his legislative actions that must be taken by the Congress, and programs to be implemented by the cabinet,” she said.

The women’s agenda include economic and social security of women, political leadership and participation of women, advance cultural and legal support, and inclusive peace and security.

Under the economic and social security, the group suggested the creation of sustainable industries that will generate equal employment opportunities for women and guarantee equal pay for women’s work and financial independence.

It emphasized that the administration of Duterte must give credence to women-led and managed social enterprises and invest in credit unions to further the development of the local economy.

They also want a strict implementation of Republic Act 9262 (or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act), Magna Carta for Women and Reproductive Health (RH) Law of 2012, and strengthen education opportunities or literacy programs for adult women and out of school youth.

The group wants to increase benefits for women “under the Solo Parent Act, 4Ps, and labor code.”

They urged Duterte to allocate 20 percent of the national budget to education, making sure the establishment of schools for the indigenous peoples and “institutionalize support for existing IP and Moro schools.”

“Support national industrialization, protection and promotion of indigenous rights, sustainable development, promotion of renewable energy sources and environmental justice,” the draft proposal added.

They pushed for the increase of subsidy for women’s health and coverage of benefits such as pre-natal care, birthing, annual comprehensive examinations from the Philippine Health Insurance Company (PHIC) and the removal of unnecessary valued added tax.

On lowering the maternal morbidity and mortality, the women’s group recommended the establishment of halfway homes for pregnant women and institutionalization of health practices of Lumads such as traditional birth attendants.

ForwaRD Women also recommended for the establishment and strengthening of pro-people initiatives such as public laundry services (Labahan ng Bayan) and local community kitchens (Lusog-Kusina ng Bayan) to “ensure food security and healthy families and communities.”

The group said that women’s participation in supervisory positions must be increased by 10 percent in national and local government agencies beyond “those perceived to be ‘traditionally for women’ agencies like social welfare.”

The national government, ForwaRD Women suggested, should establish a full national line agency of the Philippine Commission on Women in a bid to strengthen the National Women Development “with its own resources and powers instead of just one of the many units under the Office of the President”.

It hopes to increase the budget from 5 to 15 percent for Gender and Development (GAD) as well as the creation of “an Institute for Gender and Governance” that will develop the “capacities of women for leadership and governance and train all appointive and elected leaders in gender-responsive governance.”

Under the advance cultural and legal support mechanism for women and children, the group has suggested to eliminate all discriminatory laws, policies, programs, and practices (discrimination among older women relative to employment to include OFWs and senior citizens) that hinder the full exercise of women’s rights universally guaranteed by international laws, treaties, and convention.

They recommend to amend the “unequal provisions in the Family Code and the Revised Penal Code as well as expansion of provisions in the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law and Anti-Rape Law” and “stricter and more vigorous implementation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act, Magna Carta for Women and increase economic support for victims especially for women and children during disasters / calamity situations.”

The administration must ensure “full implementation of the Reproductive Health Care Act and increase budget and subsidy for women’s health,” the group said.

On inclusive peace and security, the group wants to ensure that women have participation in all levels of the peace process and increase women’s meaningful participation in decision-making on matters of national security.