President Michelle Bachelet of Chile on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to initiate policies and reforms that will ensure full participation of women in politics and in society in general.
In her speech at the culmination of the two-day 4th National Women’s Summit held at the Miriam College in Quezon City, Bachelet stressed the important role of Filipino women in nation building and the struggle of the Filipino nation to close the gender gap between men and women towards the “struggle for equity and justice.”
While the Philippines has achieved so much in terms of the economy such as the growth in the annual gross domestic product, reduced poverty rates, lower unemployment rate and wider coverage of social programs, Bachelet said, there is so much to be done to promote gender equality.
“However, much still needs to be done in terms of promoting gender equality. There are still lots of challenges to close the gender gaps…especially in terms of the political participation,” Bachelet said.
Citing the record of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Bachelet said the Philippines only had about 26 percent female participation in politics.
But she was quick to say that the country fares better than some of its Asian neighbors.
“Your record is, however, higher than the other countries in Asia. In fact, your percentage in women participation in politics is higher than the percentage of the entire asian region which is only 18.4 percent,” Bachelet said.
In Chile alone, Bachelet said there have been reforms instituted to improve its own percentage of women political participation, which is only at 16 percent.
But she said her government has strived harder to advance women participation in politics through legialations ami “lots of challenges.”
“…Just recently, we have approved a law that mandates that 40 percent of candidates for the elections has to be female. So women female participation is now a must [in Chile],” Bachelet said.
Taking a cue from Chile, Bachelet encouraged the Philippine government to pass a similar piece of legislation that would promote “support for women candidates.”
“We don’t just want women candidates. We want women elected. But to elect women, you need financial contributions,” Bachelet said.
Bachelet stressed the participation of women in politics, would in turn pave way for more reforms in terms of women and children empowerment, particularly in terms of the passage key legislations.
“Maternal mortality rate is still high all over the world. Violence and harassment on women is still prevalent…discrimination on women in various fields, such as in business, military and judiciary is still there,” Bachelet said.
“So, having women in politics is not only good for women but for the whole society,” Bachelet said.
Bachelet was elected as the first woman President of Chile in 2006 and re-elected in 2014. She is the first woman to hold this position in the history of her country.
Prior to her election to presidency, Bachelet served as the Public Health minister of Chile in 2000 and Defense minister in 2002, making her the first woman in Chile and in Latin America to hold a cabinet post.
She also served as executive director of UN Women in the United Nations where she led a global campaign on violence against women and gender equality.
Meanwhile, Miriam College president, Dr. Rosario Lapus, expressed elation with Bachelet’s presence in the “Filipino Women and the Youth” dialogue at the college.
“We are truly inspired by the visit of President Michelle Bachelet who is a major example of a woman of courageous and ethical leadership,” Lapus said.
“In the Philippines, as well as in Chile, women have taken steps so they are represented at all levels of government, reaching all the way to the top. This has not been an easy task but it is well worth the effort. It is important that the interests and influence of women take center stage,” Lapus added.