(Remarks delivered by Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia at the 75thAnniversary of the National Council of Women of the Philippines (NCWP) on June 4, 2021.)
To the officers and members of the National Council of Women of the Philippines (NCWP): Happy 75th Anniversary!
May we congratulate all of you, especially your president Teresita Gonzalez, for your unwavering commitment and tireless efforts in advancing women empowerment and gender equality in our country, in Asia, and the international community.
We also commend you for your outstanding contribution in upholding the socio-economic status of women in our country through your active participation in formulating policies such as the Magna Carta for Women, the creation of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), and advancing women’s causes in international conferences.
Iconic women leaders in global politics
Dear NCWP officers and members: In recent years, many iconic women leaders have emerged. Outstanding women in global politics include Margaret Thatcher in Britain; Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris, the first Asian-African-American and first woman to be elected vice president, in the United States; the formidable Angela Merkel in Germany, undisputedly the first among equals in the leadership ranks of the European Union today. Before them, we had Eleanor Roosevelt and with the founding of Israel, Premier Golda Meir.
In Asia, we had Indira Gandhi of India’s founding Nehru family; Sirimavo Bandaranaike, thrice Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the first woman in the world to hold the office; Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who both were elected Philippine President and Leni Robredo, the current Vice President; Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia; Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand; the indomitable Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar; and Sonia Gandhi, the low-profile but tough-minded leader of the Indian National Congress Party.
The Asian All-Women Anti-Poverty Bank
Dear women leaders: Nearly 60 percent of women around the world work in the informal economy. They have lower income and are at greater risk of falling into extreme poverty (living on less than 1.90 dollars per day).
Millions of women have also lost livelihoods since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports indicate that the global plague will push 45 million women into extreme poverty, increasing the total number of women living in extreme poverty worldwide to 145 million.
To help address this clear and present danger to the socio-economic well-being of women, the National Council of Women of the Philippines and its affiliate women’s organizations in Asia and the international community may ask our respective governments, parliaments and ministries of finance to support the establishment of an Asian All-Women Anti-Poverty Bank.
The Asian All-Women Anti-Poverty Bank may provide small loans for micro-finance business for as low as $500 to $1,000. This will help reduce poverty in the rural areas and in the urban slums of the Philippines, Asia, and around the world and help empower poor women by giving them jobs and self-employment. We have seen in Bangladesh and almost everywhere that women historically have a very high repayment record of as much as 98 percent.
We proposed the creation of this bank since the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other global and regional financial institutions lend only to governments for big ticket items, mainly for large infrastructure projects.
Promoting gender equality in national politics
Dear women leaders: If you accept – as we do – that women possess a gentler nature and a quantum of compassion greater than we men have – then you will agree our country will significantly benefit from more women politicians directing our campaigns against mass poverty; our efforts to bridge the gap between rich and poor in national society; and the campaigns we must launch against global warming – against climate change and environmental degradation that threaten the human future.
As part of the grand strategy, the National Council of Women of the Philippines may take the lead in promoting gender equality in national and local politics; and urge our political parties to start setting minimum gender ratios for our nominees to public office.
The NCWP may ask, for instance, the political parties to agree that (say) at least a third – 30-35 percent – of our electoral nominees for national and local posts must be female until at some point our women can achieve parity with our menfolks.
Ministry/Department of Women in every country
But if we really want a major advancement or quantum leap in the status of women in the Philippines and Asia, the National Council of Women of the Philippines and other women’s organizations in Asia and the international community must ask our respective governments or parliaments to create a Ministry or Department for Women in our respective countries. A few countries have already done so but we have to make this as widespread as possible.
These ministries or departments would be dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the national and local levels and focus on women’s special concerns in politics and development. These causes would include inclusive economic growth – growth that leaves no one behind – primary health care, particularly of child-bearing women and of infants, basic education and employment.
A ‘Century of Women’
Dear women leaders: We believe fervently that only their full involvement and integration in national society and more interaction with other women leaders in the world will enable the Filipino- and Asian women to reach their full potential in the workplace, the marketplace, and the community; and truly help make the 21st Century not just an Asian Century but a “Century of Women.”
Thank you and good day.