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Mely Nicolas’ rosy report on Filipino women

Imelda Nicolas, head of the Philippine delegation to the 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, presented a very rosy picture of the status of Filipino women in her review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Beijing Platform for Action in New York City last month.  The session was held ten years after the First World Conference on Women in Beijing, and 30 years after the First World Conference in Mexico City.

In the Philippines, Ms. Nicolas said, local milestones had been celebrated — the 30th anniversary of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (the oldest in Asia), and the centennial of the feminist movement in the Philippines, 100 years since the founding of the Asociacion Feminista Filipina, the first women’s NGO in the Philippines.

Here are the high points in the lives of Filipino women, as reported by Ms. Nicolas, who is secretary general/lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission:

• During the past ten years, there have been gains in the promotion of women’s human rights and in the elimination of violence against women through progressive legislation and programs and through ratification of and compliance with international conventions. Laws have been passed against sexual harassment, rape, trafficking, and domestic violence.

An inter-agency coordinating committee on violence against women was created.

GO-NGO partnerships gave birth to innovative responses to issues of violence against women, including the creation of women’s desks in police precincts and government hospitals; gender awareness training for police, health workers, prosecutors and judges, and the institution of the "Gender Justice Awards" to raise the quality of court decisions and to inspire judges to be gender sensitive in hearing and deciding on cases.

• The Philippines has ratified the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime; the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; the Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It likewise ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

• In decision-making, there has been an increase in women holding positions in the public and private spheres. Women managers raised from 33 percent in 1995 to 59 percent in 2003. In the Cabinet, women increased their numbers and held critical positions in non-traditional fields such as foreign affairs, finance, budget and management, labor and employment, science and technology, justice, peace process, civil service and anti-poverty. Within the decade, the country has its 2nd woman president.

• Gains have been made in gender mainstreaming. In partnership with the Budget Department, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women crafted the GAD Budget Policy that provides for the allocation of at least 5 percent of the budget of national and local agencies for use in gender and development programs.

The milestones in gender mainstreaming, Ms. Nicolas said, were made possible with strong national machinery for women. She also hailed the fact that "our achievements in women empowerment had been the result of the strong partnerships forged among stakeholders in the country — government agencies, the academe, the legislative branch, the judiciary, local government units, GOs, and NGOs.

There are the country’s systematic and strategic efforts addressed at women and poverty mainly through micro-finance services. Gender empowerment, family planning, social safety nets, entrepreneurial and business development are becoming integral parts of micro-finance, so that as of 2004, 1.9 million entrepreneurial poor women became regular clients.

The report also affirmed the country’s joining the Global Campaign Against Poverty through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential to the achievement of the MDGs through the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Beijing + 5 Outcome Document.

Ms. Nicolas noted that persistent challenges continue to emerge, such as the trafficking of women and girls remaining a serious problem exacerbated by the use of cyber-technology. Reforms are needed to better protect migrant workers. The realities of war and conflict continue to impact on women and children. There is need to imbue with the gender perspective relief efforts to help victims of natural disasters.

In conclusion, Ms. Nicolas said that while the Philippines celebrate the many gains since Beijing, "We are also painfully aware that so much remains to be done."

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A yearly event in the small barangay of   Malabrigo in Lobo, Batangas, is a regatta for boys ages eight to 18. The small sailboat race has been the exciting point in the young fishing villagers’ lives. This year, however, the competition is pounding into their heads that sailboat racing is a responsible sport which does not use gasoline or diesel fuel, but their arms, muscles, high spirits and determination.

The sports fest will be held this month, during the fiesta of Barangay Malabrigo. The boys’ regatta will be held simultaneously as the girls’ swimming competition. The fest has been going on for five and four years, respectively, forming the Malabrigo Logo’ Laro’ program.

According to Barangay Capt. Manuel Retallo, the sailboat competition will first be manned by adults to demonstrate to the young how it is done.

In April next year, a sailboat race for older boys, that is, from 16 to 21 years, will be held for the first time. This will be serious business, as the would-be-competitors will be coached all-year round in preparation for the event.

Olympic swimming champ Gillian Akiko Thomson and her swimming coach Pinky Brosas have been conducting swimming lessons for the girls. They have also trained swimming trainors for the past two years to assure sustainability of the program.

The barangay council, along with the "Friends of Malabrigo," has been inspiring the barangay kids to be sports-conscious. According to Mel Morales, coordinator of the program, the "friends" are residents or individuals from the cities who have visited the place and love the sea and fishing.  Most importantly, says Mel, they believe in the objective of the program ‘to help the youth grow in stature, wisdom and in favor with God and man.’ Contact Mel at tel. 824-6546 or by email:  melchormorales@hotmail.con

My email: dominimt2000@yahoo.com

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