President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins other leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries during the 36th ASEAN Summit video conference at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on June 26, 2020. Simeon Celi Jr., Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Friday, June 26, participated in the 36th ASEAN Summit ASEAN Leaders’ Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age, reaffirming the Philippines’ commitment to women empowerment and gender equality.

In a Palace statement, it said that President Duterte during the video conference summit cited progress in the promotion of the rights and status of Filipino women, stating that the Philippines has closed 78 percent of its overall gender gap. This year, the country ranks first in Asia and 16th globally in terms of gender parity in education, health, economy, and politics.

President Duterte stated that over the past three years, laws were enacted to improve women’s access to health services, increase their economic and political participation, and ensure their safety and security.

These legislations include the Universal Health Care Act, Expanded Maternity Leave Law, Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act, and the Organic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In addition, the Philippines ramped up partnerships with other governments to counter human trafficking which predominantly affects women.

While citing the significant developments, President Duterte admitted that there remain structures and practices in society that perpetuate the discrimination against and oppression of women. COVID-19 only aggravates existing gender inequalities and adds urgency to efforts in women empowerment, he added.

The President also emphasized that “we have to make cyberspace a safe place for women to connect, learn, and innovate. All forms of gender-based violence and abuse are abhorrent. They are wrong in the virtual world as they are in the real world. And they are never the victim’s fault but that of the perpetrator alone.”

He then called for a gender-responsive recovery plan for the region, underscoring the need to “ensure more women’s active participation as we go into the new normal”.

He further said that giving women control and access to digital technology, an important tool for women empowerment, must be a priority.

Several women leaders from the Asia Pacific also participated in the event as Special Guests of Viet Nam as Chair of ASEAN. These include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Viet Nam National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

This special session was convened in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women empowerment and gender equality, which was adopted in Beijing in 1995.

Balikbayan Media Center
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