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Shahani: Senator, diplomat, educator

Former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, younger sister of former president Fidel Ramos, was supposed to undergo chemotherapy but succumbed to pneumonia and other infections.

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani yesterday died of stage four colon cancer. She was 87.

Shahani died at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, where she had been confined for a month, her daughter Lila said.

“Mom left the body, by the awful grace of God, at 2:40 a.m. … just a few hours after my 50th birthday,” Lila wrote in a Facebook post yesterday.

Shahani, younger sister of former president Fidel Ramos, was supposed to undergo chemotherapy but succumbed to pneumonia and other infections.

She was a multi-faceted public servant. She was a diplomat, lawmaker, educator and women’s rights advocate.

Prior to her election as senator, Shahani had a wide and notable record of government service, which included her being chair of the National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women in 1987 and ambassador to Australia (1978-1980) and the Socialist Republic of Romania (1975-1980).

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She was also among the highest-ranking women at the United Nations, serving as assistant secretary general for social development and humanitarian affairs from 1981 to 1986.

She co-authored the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, was chair of the UN Commission on Women and secretary general of both the Third UN Conference on Women and Seventh Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders in 1985.

Shahani once lamented that at the time she was in the arena of diplomacy, “it was a man’s world” and that it was tough for a woman to be a diplomat.

While serving in the UN at a time when advocating for women’s rights was not yet in vogue, she pushed hard for issues such as equal rights between men and women.

Her experience in international affairs helped her become an effective member of the Senate.

She acknowledged as much in one interview, in which she said her UN stint “had helped me formulate some of the laws that, I think, contributed much to raising the status of women in our country.”

Among the pieces of legislation she authored were the Shahani Law, which deals with gender discrimination; the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, which expanded the definition of rape; and a law requiring local government units to allocate five percent of their annual budget for gender equality and development.

Shahani served as senator for two terms, from 1987 to 1998. She held the post of Senate president protempore and chaired various committees, including the committee on foreign affairs and committee on education. She was also a member of the Commission on Appointments.

In June 2015, the House of Representatives, under then Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., passed Resolution 2007 to honor Shahani.

The resolution cited her as a “distinguished diplomat, educator and senator.”

“She successfully shepherded, despite the acute differences in position among member-states, the unanimous adoption of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, which served as a blueprint of action for promoting the role of women in peace and development, and laid the foundation for gender mainstreaming, among nation-states,” the resolution noted.

That same month, the Senate also honored its former stalwart under Resolution 1396 authored by Sen. Loren Legarda.

Shahani was also an educator. She was dean of the graduate school of Lyceum of the Philippines University and dean of the college of international, humanitarian and development studies of Miriam College. She taught various subjects, including English literature, French, Spanish, comparative literature, humanities and social psychology.  – With Pia Lee-Brago, Christina Mendez, Eva Visperas, Ding Cervantes

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