Filipino Feminism and Sustainability
The almost unlikely parallelism between two movements.
March 12, 2019
Written by Jeane Peracullo, PhD
Art by Rhogie Pelgone
The 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, which is published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF), ranks the Philippines as the 8th in the world in terms of addressing the gaps in gender parity. Since 2006, the Philippines has consistently remained in the Top 10. The report measures gender parity within the parameters of educational attainment, political participation, economic opportunity, and access to health care.
For me, the good ranking of the Philippines is a testament to the tireless work of Filipino women activists and human rights advocates in the country. This can be attested by several legislations that pertain to—and are considered to be—highly beneficial to women, such as the Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012; the Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women; the Republic Act 10398 or an act declaring November 25 of every year as “National Consciousness Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children;” the Republic Act No. 10361 or Domestic Workers Act; the Republic Act 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009; the Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009; the Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004; the Republic Act 8972 or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000; the Republic Act 8505 or the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998.
These progressive laws did not magically come into being on their own; most of them took more than a decade to be promulgated since the first bills were filed at the House of Representatives. Filipino women activists alongside their male colleagues who were their allies in advancing the Filipino women’s rights did the backbreaking work of research, fieldwork, and negotiations among multiple stakeholders in our society. Nevertheless, their hard work, resilience. and resourcefulness in advancing gender parity in the country had translated into a remarkable showing in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Reports for several years now.
In 2019, Filipino women activists are facing a myriad of challenges. The volatility of the global economic markets, the threats of climate change, and the persistent danger of misogyny in the society have no doubt added to the uncertainty that many women in the world will not be able to have equal access to educational, political, and economic opportunities that had eluded them for centuries. In the Philippines, this glaring fact confronts us almost daily: while many Filipino women are highly educated, more than half of the total number of overseas Filipino workers are women who are mostly working in highly insecure and dangerous domestic jobs that do not afford them full access to their rights and privileges as workers. For Filipino women activists, there is no rest for the weary, for what is at stake is human life.
The urgency is acutely felt in the areas where health and environment intersect. Filipino women activists call for increasing the participation of women, especially in the matters of the family’s health and well-being as well as in food production and access to safe food and water. On the global economic stage, unabated capitalism has provided—and continues to provide—the impetus for a neoliberal economic model, which upholds the view that natural resources are inexhaustible and that industrialization is the real indicator of a community’s development and progress. Moreover, unrelenting wealth extraction can leave the natural world unable to sustain life.
Feminism, an idea that may have originated in the Western context, finds its resonance in the lived experiences of many Filipino women activists. After all, the feminist movement in the Philippines has been around for more than 100 years. Feminism’s origin is via activism; its very core is the passionate belief that women and men are equal in the eyes of humankind. It is then imperative that the spirit of feminism be nurtured and kept alive in our society. The sustainability of such task is a matter of life and death, both of the self and of the nation. The imperative is a privilege as well as a burden of the present and future generations of Filipinos.