Empowering women

Published February 28, 2021, 12:55 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Philip Cu Unjieng

Women’s History Month kicks off tomorrow, March 1st; with March 8th as our National Women’s Day. This has been going on since 1988, and it’s all about advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) in the Philippines. To be fair, the position of our nation on Women’s rights is relatively developed compared to many other countries. There are Philippine laws in place that address workplace discrimination, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and human trafficking.

In the Global Gender Gap Index of 2017, the Philippines ranked 10th out of 145 countries for gender equality; higher than any other Asia-Pacific country – except for New Zealand. But despite this progress and these achievements, it doesn’t take some gifted seer or fortune teller to tell us there’s still need for further development. A whole world of difference exists between the women who have academically, financially, and politically distinguished themselves (of which there are many), and the women still subjected to domestic abuse, are financially desperate, and exploited through prostitution, trafficking and migrant work. That these women from two opposite ends of the spectrum can co-exist in one social milieu is still cause for grave concern.

But let’s celebrate what we can – and in these pandemic times, it’s great to see big corporate institutions taking a strong initiative, making Women’s Month something very close to their hearts.

SM Supermalls is the lead for the various SM activities connected to this year’s Women’s Month. I’ll quickly touch on the line-up that’s directed towards their regular malling community, as these are the ones that drive people to the malls – something that malls nationwide are encouraging, as health & safety protocols are in place, and it will help bring our economy out of the COVID doldrums.

At the working lunch held at SM Aura, where plans were laid out for SM Supermalls’ Women’s Month celebration and activities.

A Women’s Bazaar on March 5-31 will highlight Fashion, Beauty, & Wellness; with MSME’s run by women entrepreneurs in the forefront. Then, there’s a 3.3 Women’s Crazy Sale on March 3 & 7, and a Women’s Wednesday Sale for all the Wednesdays of March. With 70% and 50% mark-offs on selected items, this is SM giving back to their consumers in a big way.

Snackable webisodes and features from SM Beauty and Watsons will focus on beauty and self-care; and should prove to be helpful guides on what to shop for this Summer – whether planning that trip out, or just transitioning your WFH to HFH – Holiday From Home! And while waiting for the SM Cinemas to reopen, SM Supermalls are offering free one-month access to WeTV and iFlix, for every P500 single purchase – that’s streaming your favorites when you reach home, courtesy of SM.

On March 5th, a signing ceremony will take place as SM becomes an official signatory to the UN Women’s Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs). As UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said during the 2018 WEPs Forum; “We look at the private sector to generate innovation, employment, and financing that can bridge the gender gaps in the world of work, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals…. Companies that invest in women, support women’s leadership and decision-making, and commit to gender equality, typically outperform their competitors. The Women’s Empowerment Principles offer a great platform for change.”

Evidently, WEPs are a primary vehicle for corporate delivery on gender equality dimensions of the 2030 agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By joining the WEPs community, a CEO signals commitment to this agenda at all levels of the company, and to work in collaboration with multi-stakeholders networks to foster business practices that empower women. These would include equal pay for work of equal value, gender responsive supply chain practices, and zero tolerance against sexual harassment in the workplace. With women comprising over 63% of the SM workforce as of December 2019, and more interestingly, 59% of the Senior Management positions & 65% of Middle Management. This covers SMIC, SM Retail, SM Prime, BDO, China Bank, 2GO, Atlas Mining, and Belle Corp. This signing can be seen as a resounding vote of confidence in the women at SM, and how the company is looking out for them.

In line with this signing, there will be discussions on women empowerment, and on business engagement amid the pandemic – to encourage and motivate female listeners to seize the opportunities out there, and be decisive about the role they can play in the near future, our post-pandemic world. These happen on March 10 & 11; and you can head to the SM Supermalls social media platforms to get more details about these talks, and the activities mentioned above.

It’s wonderful that SM is so involved in this flurry of activities throughout the month of March. They’re not just lending their malls as venues, but spearheading the initiatives themselves. Plus for years now, they’ve been “walking the walk” insofar as gender equality and job opportunity is concerned.