United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson reaffirmed the US commitment to help the Philippines combat violence against women and children (VAWC.)
Carlson addressed women leaders and activists at the #RightsforAll: Rights for Equality forum held at the Ateneo Law School in Makati City on Friday, Dec. 9, in line with the nationwide 18-day VAWC campaign.
“Advocating for women’s rights has been a central focus of the Biden administration and of my own career as a diplomat. I am committed to continuing that work alongside all of you as the US Ambassador to the Philippines,” Carlson said in her speech.
She recognized that the fight for true equality and equality in dignity, respect, and opportunity remains a constant struggle for women and girls in all societies around the world to this day.
“Of the barriers that they face, none is more debilitating than gender-based violence. Women and children who experience violence see their world shrink,” Carlson said.
Pervasive violence against women and children often result in less opportunities for education, travel, and work. Women and girls exposed to violent environments may also hinder them from finding respectful and violence-free relationships.
“Responding to violence against women and children is about providing resources and healing to those who are victims, and also building healthier and safer communities for the women and girls who will follow us,” Carlson said.
“Addressing the ways in which the long-term impact of violence shapes the present and future of women and children is an essential step in creating long-term plans for communities to combat violence and rebalance opportunities for everyone,” she added.
Carlson shared some of the programs the US government has done in partnership with national agencies in relation to VAWC.
These include training hundreds of healthcare providers and providing specialized services to over 1,600 gender-based violence victims, as well as launching an awareness campaign on how to recognize gender-based violence. This campaign has been able to reach around 16,000 people, she noted.
In terms of delivering justice to VAWC victims, Carlson said the US embassy has partnered with the Philippine justice system to improve its investigations on VAWC-related cases in order to better hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
The embassy has also set up a social media-based platform that provides free legal advice on gender-based violence and other human rights issues.
The US government also aims to empower young Filipino women through their flagship leadership program, Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). Through YSEALI, youth fellows are able to “increase the reach of their advocacy and make their voices heard in civil society and public sector decision-making.”
Carlson expressed her gratitude to attendees and panel speakers at the forum, saying “events like this one is an opportunity to gather, to learn from one another, and to encourage one another to continue this very important fight.”
“Your work continues to improve the lives of women and children in the PH and make the PH and our world a safer and more humane place,” Carlson added.
The #RightsforAll: Rights for Equality forum on women’s rights was organized by SPARK Philippines in partnership with the United States Embassy, the Embassy of France to the Philippines and Micronesia, and the Ateneo Human Rights Center.
Among the panel discussants of the forum were Ann Dumaliang, the co-founder and managing Trustee of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation; Kaye Brier, a journalist from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI); Lt. Col. Mary Grace Madayag, the chief of the anti-Trafficking in Persons Division of Women and Children Protection Section of the Philippine National Police (PNP); and Princess Jacel Kiram, the chairperson of the International Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Development.