Duterte, Leni call for women empowerment

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    PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday called for women empowerment as he said that while his administration has taken actions to create an environment where women’s rights are respected and their contributions recognized, more needs to be done.

    Vice President Leni Robredo, a frequent subject of Duterte’s public put-downs, also called for empowerment, saying while there have been gains in making the world more gender-equal, incidents against women, like domestic violence, continue.

    The two issued the statements on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

    President Duterte has drawn flak for his comments on women and behavior towards them, such as whistling and kissing, and his rape “joke.” Last week, he berated Robredo, telling her to go buy vaccines abroad so she would stop criticizing his government vaccination program.

    Robredo, in her message, said: “There is much to be proud of: The right to vote, improved economic and political participation, and stronger legislation protecting women’s rights embody a world that has become more gender-equal over the past several generations.

    Despite these gains however, the road remains long. The realities on the ground paint a picture that remains far from ideal. Cases of domestic violence continue to rise. Under the shadow of the pandemic, reproductive health services have been hampered, and lockdowns have trapped survivors at home with their abusers, with little in terms of a lifeline to the outside world.”

    Robredo said there are places in the world where women continue to be denied of education, are forced into marriages, “and left with no choice but to dream smaller.”

    She asked women to band together to continue the work of “banging against the glass ceiling and creating spaces where all genders can flourish and contribute to society.”

    Duterte, in his women’s day message, said empowering women will enable them to “break not only barriers that have long hindered them from reaching their full potential, but also the backward mindset that fueled a culture of gender oppression and inequality.”

    The President also said significant strides have been made to address gender inequality but much more needs to be done to completely free women from the “bondage of inequality.”

    He said his administration has done “concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions” to create an environment where women’s rights are respected and their contributions to society are recognized but there is still a need to promote activities and advocacies that will empower women to address and overcome societal challenges, and achieve collective prosperity and development.

    “I therefore encourage every Filipino to join us in celebrating the indispensable role of women in our nation’s progress by participating in this month-long celebration and supporting advocacies that seek to fight for and acknowledge the inalienable rights of women as equal partners of men. Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina,” he said.

    Duterte is notorious for comments often deemed offensive, sexist and misogynistic, but his office typically calls his remarks harmless jokes.

    Early in his term, Duterte was criticized for whistling at a female reporter and kissing a married woman on the lips in a public engagement, among others. In November last year, Duterte and other government officials exchanged jokes about sex and womanizing during a post-typhoon briefing.

    Two months ago, Duterte said the presidency is no job for a woman because of their emotional differences with men. He made the statement as he dismissed speculation that his daughter would run for the presidency next year.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said despite what others think of Duterte’s remarks and behavior concerning women, it cannot be denied that he supports women.

    Roque said the President, during the World Economic Forum, promoted women’s rights through gender equality, and has signed into law measures that promote women’s rights and welfare such as Republic Act 11210 or “Expanded Maternity Leave Act” and Republic Act 1148 or the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act.”

    He also said that when Duterte was mayor of Davao City, he implemented measures to promote family planning and protect women against domestic violence.

    He said based on data, the Philippines is known in the world as the best in Asia in promoting equal rights between men and women.