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It took about eight years before the bicameral Philippine Congress finally passed the Magna Carta of Women in 2009. The Philippine Commission on Women, the national women’ s machinery, took it on as a priority bill to advocate for since it was the national translation of CEDAW. The CEDAW Committee, in its concluding recommendations to our 5th and 6th report asked for an organic law to translate the women’s rights treaty. There were a number of bills filed, such as the Magna Carta for Women and the Magna Carta for Rural Women. The versions were eventually consolidated into the Magna Carta OF Women to show that it was the collective effort of government agencies and civil society groups such as rural women’s groups composed of peasants and fishers, indigenous women, Bangsamoro women, women in the informal sector as well as broad‐based women’s organizations and the academe who actively lobbied for it and thus laid claim on it or own it. With support to government and NGOs from UN Women (then UNIFEM) CEDAW South East Asian Project, several consultations and dialogues were conducted nationwide with various stakeholders until the legislators finally saw its importance. Having this passed in a predominantly male Congress was not easy. The men would often question the need for a special law for women. The women legislators who then comprised less than 20% actively supported it. It took a confluence of events from various stakeholders, including certification from the Office of the President as urgent, that led to its final passage. The final version thus includes sections on rights and empowerment, including protection from violence; women affected by disasters, calamities and other crisis situations; participation and representation; equal access and elimination of discrimination in education, scholarship and training; women’s right to health; sports, military, and others. It also includes a comprehensive chapter on rights and empowerment of marginalized sectors with sections on food security and productive resources; right to livelihood, credit, capital and technology; social protection; peace and development; among others. A last chapter on institutional mechanisms spells out the gender mainstreaming strategy mandating all government agencies to fulfill their duty to implement the law through gender analysis, planning and budgeting of their policies and programs. Our office, together with the Commission on Human Rights (our natonal human rights institution designated as the Gender Ombud) is tasked to monitor its implementation.
Possible Impacts that could be attributed to gains on women’s rights and food security and Recommendations Focusing on the section on food security and productive resources, the law says that, “The State recognizes the contribution of women to food production and shall ensure sustainability and sufficiency, including in the context of climate change… The State shall guarantee, at all times, the availability in the market of safe and health‐giving food to satisfy the dietary needs of the population, giving particular attention to the specific needs of poor girl‐children and marginalized women, especially pregnant and lactating mothers and their young children.” Under right to food, the State shall guarantee the availability of food, acceptability and safety (‘in quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, the physical and economic accessibility for everyone to adequate food that is culturally acceptable and free from unsafe substances.. and the accurate and substantial information to the availability of food, including the right to full, accurate and truthful information about safe and health‐giving foods and how to produce and have regular easy access to them.”) Under right to resources for food production – women are guaranteed right to land, credit and infrastructure support, technical training, and technological and marketing assistance. The State is also called upon to promote women‐friendly technology and provide information on resources. Equal status and treatment should be given in land titling and issuance of stewardship contracts and patents; agrarian reform programs; enjoyment, use and management of land, water and other natural resources within their ancestral domains (for indigenous communities), fisheries and aquatic resources; deputization as fish wardens; access to small farmer‐based and controlled seeds production and distribution; membership in farmers organizations. It also mentions that indigenous practices of women in seed storage and cultivation shall be recognized, encouraged and protected. In order of all these rights to be fulfilled, the implementing rules and regulations mandates specific government agencies such as the departments (ministries) of agriculture, agrarian reform, environment and natural resources, trade and industry, labor, , energy, food and drug administration, tourism, public works and highways (for farm‐to‐market roads); science and technology, the technical education and skills development authority and state universities and colleges (for training and technology transfer). In the Women’s Empowerment, Development and Gender Equality Plan, 2013‐ 2016 which is about to be launched in a few months, indicators and targets are set in order to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the law. This plan was a result of several planning consultations with government and civil society groups. Thus, even the civil society groups will be engaging with government in monitoring its implementation.
Concrete Actions for Government on Gender Mainstreaming in food security and poverty reduction interventions In all actions, practice participatory governance. The current Aquino Administration puts this as a basic principle. Stakeholders, especially the marginalized sectors must be consulted and involved if we are to actualize what we tout as ‘inclusive growth.’ NGOs and civil society must actively engage with government in a constructive way – to critically collaborate on issues and even provide the necessary technical assistance and perspectives from real live stories from the ground. Governments as State Parties to several international commitments must fulfill their obligations and duties. Departments and ministries must strive to work together in convergent strategies, rather than working in silos, in order to have better impact on the lives of clients and the people they serve. We have a concrete example of a pilot project we call the GREAT Women project which aimed to enhance the enabling environment at the national and local government level for women’s economic empowerment. Bringing together agencies working on micro‐enterprise development at the municipal level and also involving the private sector like a social enterprise group brought about concrete results. Women’s products were up‐scaled with suggested variants for better marketability, they were sustainable (environment friendly and ensuring that resources are not depleted), safe (through lessons on good manufacturing practices). Women also had social protection through enrolment in thenational health insurance system. Women’s testimonials revealed that with their additional income, their husbands respected them more; they were no longer beaten up; she could provide for food for her family, health and education for her children. Some women felt good they were being consulted and that they could participate in the local economic development planning of her municipality. Women’s self‐esteem was boosted and they had a voice! .
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