MARCH is international women’s month and March 8 being the international women’s day.
The force majeure in this celebration was recognizing women’s right to suffrage in countries like Russia. On March 8, 1917 in Petrograd, Russia, women textile workers launched a city-wide strike to call for the end of World War I and food shortages. The strike was supported by other factory workers and history records that the emperor of Russia then, Nicholas II, granted women the right to vote.
In the Philippines, a proclamation in 1988 has officially recognized March as the Women’s month (Proclamation 277) and March 8 as National Women’s day (RA 6949). These legal declarations are crucial because it means that the government recognizes the need to empower women so they may become better “contributors and claimholders of development.” For the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) this “empowers the women to engage with appropriate institutions to ensure that they contribute to and benefit from development and changes and hopefully, make the change that we are espousing or any development effort responsive of women’s concerns.”
In the past years, other laws on women have been passed. These are:
1989: Law against discrimination against women in the workplace (RA 6725)
1990: Anti-mail order bride law (RA 6955)
1990: Law establishing daycare centers to every municipality and barangay (RA 6972)
1991: Women in nation-building law (RA 7192)
1995: Law providing assistance to women in micro enterprises (RA 7882)
1995: Anti-sexual harassment law (RA 7877)
1997: Law redefining crime of rape (RA 8353)
1998: Law providing assistance and protection to rape victims (RA 8505)
2000: Solo parent’s welfare (RA 8972)
2003: Anti-trafficking in persons (RA 9208)
2004: Anti-VAWC law (9262)
2009: Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710)
2012: Responsible parenthood and reproductive health law (RA 10354)
2019: Expanded Maternity Leave Law (11210)
So where are our women?
Around 30% of the working-age Filipinas are still not part of the labor force due to family duties. The senate and congress are still male dominated though the vice-president is a woman. The gender daily wage gap is pegged at 3% but is said to widen to 30% for certain careers. With the maternity leave extended to 100 days, some even fear that opportunities for married women workers may also lessen. Most women farmers and fishers who often start their day at the break of dawn still find themselves doing the household chores and budgeting family incomes. This is based on the belief that a woman’s brain is wired differently that she can handle multiple tasks at one time.
I have been asked over the weekend how this women’s month celebration affects me. Am I expected to do cartwheels? But knowing that I have community that recognizes my womanhood propels me to be a better person, to walk in my red stilettoes at the higher road, because this is what life is about after all.