Echaves: Glacial changes

I WAS recently invited to speak at the 13th Women’s Congress at the Cebu Cultural Center, fronting UP Cebu in Lahug.

The theme was “Kababayen-an: Giya sa Pagsubay sa Matarong nga Dalan.” So I shared these thoughts.

We’ve long heard and known that in the Philippines, women hold up half the sky. The population of women runs neck-to-neck with that of men. This has been true since 1980 until the present.

In 1980 when the population totaled 48 million, men comprised 24.1 percent while women, 24 percent. That composition has consistently remained until 2010, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO). In 2010, when population was 92.3 million, males comprised 50.4 percent while women, 49.6 percent.

In education, however, women have fared better than men. The recent Flemms (Functional Literary, Education and Mass Media Survey) for basic literary rate for ages 10 and above, women marked 96.1 percent as compared to 95.1 percent for men.

The same ahead-of-men pattern were shown in the results for (a) functional literacy rate, (b) ability to communicate and read, (c) net enrolment ratio for both elementary and secondary levels, (d) enrolment in higher education, (e) completion rate in all levels from elementary through college, (f) percentage of licensed professionals, (g) percentage with academic degrees, (h) percentage with post-college degrees, and (i) percentage of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools.

Yet, how have these achievements in education served women? Have abuses against them, physical or sexual, decreased?

Per the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, spousal violence declined (a) as the husband’s age increases, (b) as the woman’s education increases, and (c) as the wealth quintile increases.

Physical violence was highest (26.3 percent) among women ages 15 to 49 with no education. Still, even those with college education marked 13.5 percent as among the victims of violence.

How ready is the Filipino psyche about Filipinas who have crashed through the glass ceiling? To this day, such kinds of women stimulate both positive and negative reactions.

To some girls and young ladies, they become role models about stretching one’s potential and realizing their God-given talents and abilities.

Still, negative reactions surface. Attitudes toward women achievers change glacially.

Even in her time when P-Noy’s mother ran reluctantly for the presidency, Cory Aquino’s detractors magnified her being “walang alam.” Her eventual success in the polls was justified as the people’s collective apology to her martyred husband Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.

Some women leaders today inevitably attract brickbats from understandably less accomplished women. The former’s accomplishments merely become compensatory for some void in their lives--“because she has no husband,” or “Maybe she’s a tomboy; she moves like one,” or “She’s so feisty; that’s because she’s unhappily married.”

NSO projects the population to swell to 102.9 million by 2015, with women marking 51.2 percent and men, 51.7 percent. In 2015, shall this nation still see just more of the same?

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