Vote for more women leaders, Pinoys urged

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Elect more women leaders, Filipinos were urged, as the government on Tuesday celebrated the 76th anniversary of the plebiscite that gave women in the Philippines the right to vote.

"We need to challenge the status quo. It is not enough to have a good number of male politicians who are sympathetic to women's concerns," the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said.

This, as it noted that only 18.4 percent of elective posts were won by women in the May 2010 polls despite the higher voter turnout among females (75.7 percent) versus males (74.4 percent).

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But more than just increasing the number of female leaders, the PCW called on Pinoys to "elect women leaders who truly understand women’s issues and experiences."

Voters should keep in mind that politicians' responsibilities go beyong "entertaining constituents in social gatherings, providing charity work, or putting up day care centers."

"We push for qualified women to be given more opportunities to run for office for themselves or for the larger female community," the PCW said.

"They can be effective public servants and not just mere shadows of their fathers and husbands or just substitutes to keep the family dynasty in power," it added.

Filipino women on April 30, 1937 voted overwhelmingly to be entitled the right to vote and be allowed to join the electoral race.

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The Philippines was among the first nations to ratify women's suffrage in the first half of the 20th century.

Others were the United Kingdom (1918), the United States of America (1920), Thailand (1932), Myanmar (1935), France (1944), Italy and Japan (1945), Vietnam (1946), and Mexico (1947).

Filipinas meanwhile first exercised the right to suffrage and run for office on the elections of Dec. 14, 1937.

The Philippines has elected several lady senators and representatives over the decades, as well as two women presidents--Corazon Aquino in 1986 and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001.

Both had been catapulted into the highest position in the land by the ouster of previous leaders--strongman Ferdinand Marcos and former President Joseph Estrada.

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In a separate statement, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte noted that during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III "women have been appointed to key positions."

"[W]e celebrate the Filipina for taking an active role in development of our nation and encourage even more women to participate in the growth of our democracy," Valte said further.

The PCW stressed, however, that "we cannot say that women now have a firmer foothold in politics because men, to a large extent, are still in control."

PCW blames this lack of control over policy making and implementations is for the slow pace of reforms intended for women.

"Let us allow more women to take the lead in shaping the gender-responsive policies and take part in setting the political agenda," the PCW said.