The other half holding up the sky

Column-Sen Edgardo Angara photo

Former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara

MARCH is National Women’s Month, celebrating the vital role women play in nation-building. This year’s theme is promoting a more gender-balanced and -sensitive society by getting women to participate more actively in mainstream activities.

In fact, women have long played proactive roles in the affairs of the Philippines. Led by the social activist First Lady, Aurora Aragon Quezon, the 1937 plebiscite successfully gave Filipino women the right to vote and run for public office. We became among the first nations in the Asia-Pacific region to adopt universal suffrage.

Eight decades later, Filipino women remain active and engaged. Their penetration into electoral affairs is rather uplifting. In the May 2013 elections, there were 893,418 more female voters than male voters. A recent Grant Thornton survey of 36 developed and developing economies found the Philippines among the countries with the most women in senior positions. Close to 39 percent of the Philippine businesses surveyed showed women in upper-management roles. The Philippines tops even developed economies like Japan, Australia, and Singapore.

The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the Philippines as seventh in the world and the highest in Asia-Pacific for its effective efforts in closing the so-called gender gap.

And the 2015 Mastercard Index of Women’s Advancement (MIWA) describes the Philippines as among the best countries for female workers. The Philippines is one of only two countries in the Asia-Pacific region (the other being, New Zealand) to have more than 50 female business or government leaders for every 100 males in equivalent leadership positions.

Of course, despite the outside world’s very positive view, we still have some areas of concern and scope for improvement. For one, it’s absolutely unacceptable that maternal death is 114 for every 100,000 live births in 2015. And one out of four pregnancies (or 28 percent) is unwanted, simply on account of lack of information and instruction for women about proper reproductive health and modern family planning methods.

In less than two months, we will know who our next leader will be. And we all hope he or she will have an inclusive mind and a keen awareness that half the sky is held up by women.


Vital Signs Issue 85 Vol. 4, March 1-31 2016