G2B (Got to belabor, that is)

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, March 8, 2014


THIS week, many Filipino households stayed glued in front of their television sets watching the last episodes of the ABS-CBN show Got to Believe or G2B. Chances are great anticipation and thrilled shrieks greeted the resolution of the story between Chichay (Kathryn Bernardo) and Wacky (Daniel Padilla), and also of the conflict between their families -– Mama Bear and Papa Bear Tampipi (Manilyn Reynes and Benjie Paras), and Juliana and Jaime Manansala (Carmina Villaroel and Ian Veneracion).

I witnessed how one household watched with much excitement (a lot of held breaths and subsequent squealing) one such episode of G2B this week and wondered when the same kind of personal involvement and interest would ever characterize our public events, say of March as Women’s Month, and International Women’s Day every March 8.

Call me envious and at the risk of belaboring the topic, but ought not the marking of the status of women, half the Philippine people, deserve the same kind of attention, following and enthusiasms a TV sitcom?

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And I do not just refer to the official response – the posters and streamers in government offices, and the t-shirts during the annual parade of government offices. Mind you, there are the mobilizations of women’s movements too; dramatic efforts to make issues visible, heard and acted on. But I really mean activities in schools, community centers, homes, and even in the places of different religious beliefs.

And why not? Schools mark United Nations’ Month every October. Some churches celebrate Peace Week every December. Admittedly, outside of religion-inspired occasions (i.e. Christmas and Eid’l Fitr, for instance) I am hard pressed to think of examples of public holidays that receive as much attention and are marked with rites and rituals in communities and homes. But that is precisely the point, is it not? If an event is worth canceling work and school for, ought it not at least deserve recognition and commemoration in our neighborhoods and at home?

Imagine that on Bonifacio Day and Rizal Day, families would actually take time to appreciate who Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal were and their contributions to our country, instead of just hanging around at home, attending to errands or going to malls. Imagine getting kids in the neighborhood to play dress-up and restage the Cry of Balintawak. Imagine starting a contest of identifying how many and where the different statues of Jose Rizal are in your locality, and in the process acquainting the young with the multifaceted person that was Pepe.

For Women’s Month and International Women’s Day, my own vision of celebration would begin with knowing who are the women in our country. It would involve acknowledging the different images, settings and circumstances of womanhood in the Philippines. I would endeavor that our recognition would cover women across class and social status, ethnicity, age, location, time, persuasion and preferences. The aim is to balance and diversify the dominant images of women dished out by mass and social media, and defined by our day-to-day interactions.

Due prominence would be given to Filipinas who have performed heroic deeds for their communities. I hope more Filipinos would come to know better those who fought for national liberation such as Gabriela Silang, Tandang Sora, and Gregoria de Jesus. But we should expand and update our list to include contemporary heroines like Lorena Barros, and also local ones like Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez and Cristina Jose.

Beng was a campus journalist at the Ateneo de Davao University and former Vice-President for Mindanao of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) who was killed in North Cotabato in 2002. Cristina was shot and summarily executed in Baganga, Davao Oriental a year ago; she was one of the leaders of the movement of those affected by typhoon Pablo in Southern Mindanao.

Think of the many women out there, regardless of their ethnic, religious and political affiliations, who are regarded by their communities as having made great contributions and who thus deserve to be recognized by their own. No matter if they would never earn an official award. I think we would be enriched immensely by our awareness of these women and what they each gave.

The celebration of Women’s Month and International Women’s Day would need to be grounded on the realities and challenges of our time. To be sure, there would be acknowledgement of the achievements of the Philippines in terms of the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI), which ranks countries on the basis of the gaps between women and men in the areas of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

The Philippines ranked fifth in the 2013 global report, up from ranking eighth in the previous year. We are the highest GGI rated country in the entire Asia Pacific, outranking even the developed countries of the rest of the world -- United Kingdom, Canada, France and the United States. The top GGI nations are known for “dividing resources more equitably between women and men than other countries, regardless of the overall level of resources available”. This achievement required the many contributions of many women and men from the Philippines and outside and should be duly valued.

However, we cannot and ought not stop there. It has been our experience that policies, mechanisms, processes and services are important but their presence and attainment are not the goal. Rather they are there as means, and the whole point is to further enable women, and to continuously improve their status, be it in the economic, social, domestic and political spheres.

Hence, our stocktaking will have to include owning up to such realities as the persisting inequities in employment and salaries between men and women in the country and even outside, and the specific challenges facing Muslim and indigenous women.

The March 2014 Ulat Lila of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) cited data from the National Statistics Office that showed disparities in the labor participation rate of men and women (78.4 percent for the former, and 49.4 percent for the latter). This means a double loss; half of women who are of productive capacity are unable to gainfully work and earn, while the country is losing out on benefiting from these women’s industrious prowess.

Although female officials of government and special interest organizations, corporate executives, managers and supervisors earn more on the average and on a daily basis than their male counterparts (P818.64 for women and P791.14 for men), and the same pattern is noted among those engaged in farming, forestry and fishing (P404.47 for women and P323.33 for men), the reverse is true for the rest of the occupation groups.

Among professionals, technicians and associate professionals, clerks, service workers and shop and market sales workers, trades and related workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers, laborers and unskilled workers and in special occupations, men earn more on the average than women according to the BLES Gender Statistics on Labor and Employment using 2012 figures. The biggest gaps are in the service workers and shop and market sales workers (P114.57 more for men) and the special occupations (P119.73 more for men).

CWR observed that most of the employed Filipinas are in sectors with low pay, lack tenure or job security, and tended to be repetitive and mechanical, depriving women of the opportunity to better their skills.

In agriculture, hunting and forestry the share of women’s unpaid work was at 49 percent compared to 16 percent for men; and was even higher in fishing and aquaculture – 67 percent unpaid work for women as against 12 percent for men.

According to POEA, of the total 458,575 overseas Filipino workers who were deployed in 2012, more than half or 55 percent were women; majority became household service workers in their countries of destination.

To be sure, productive-aged men and women alike are affected by the economic challenges still besetting the Philippines. But it is vital to recognize and subsequently act on the fact that there continue to be iniquitous differentiations in how men and women participate in, control, and benefit from our economic life.

Muslim and indigenous women have issues in the context of their own communities and cultures. Muslim women rights advocates have identified concerns that need to be addressed such as early marriage, polygyny, and the barriers against exercise by women of their economic rights. However, these cannot be resolved by simply imposing national or international laws and standards. They will also have to approach in dialogue with cultural and other belief platforms.

The CWR report also noted that on top of the above challenges, many women in the country have to contend with the rising ‘ties – the unpredictability and high costs of utilities (power and water), and the risks from calamities both natural and human-made alike.

So yes, there is cause to belabor, to repeatedly and insistently raise, the struggles of women in the country lest we end up becoming complacent.

But belaboring is also founded on belief, and I do not mean belief in the magical powders featured in the ABS-CBN G2B.I refer to the belief in what women and men can achieve when not hobbled by stereotypes and other artificially constructed constraints and privileges.

The point being we have got to believe in the seemingly magical powers that women and men possess and wield when we, freely using the words of Nigerian activist Hafsat Abiola, are “able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone.” Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 08, 2014.

Opinion

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