Youth groups to 19th congress: Prioritize rights of girls in legislative actions

Days before the new Congress begins, a coalition of youth advocates for girls and young women’s rights urge the 19th Congress to prioritize fulfillment of girls rights in its upcoming  legislative agenda.

“As we welcome and enter the dawn of our new Congress, the Filipino youth look forward to another productive policy advocacy work with both our longtime and potential new champions in the two chambers. The year is 2022. It is indeed high time that we double our efforts in empowering the position and agency of girls and young women in the Filipino society,” says Graciella, 20, of SheDecides Philippines.

The coalition composed of youth groups who are advocates of girls and young women’s rights formed the #HIJAlalan2022 Girls Electoral Agenda in February 2022 through country-wide consultations. Among the long list of agenda that covers both executive and legislative measures include the following calls for policy:

  1. Passage of the SOGIE Equality bill, to fight against sex and gender-based discrimination;
  2. Refile and pass the Internet and Digital Content and Safety and Online Protection for Children bill – to protect children, girls and young women in digital spaces from all forms of gender-based violence and harassment, enhance digital literacy and safety, and enable them to exercise their rights to participate and seek reliable information;
  3. Prioritize Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention bill, to stop the rising and alarming cases of adolescent pregnancies and provide appropriate healthcare and protection for adolescent parents;
  4. Provide measures to ensure meaningful participation of children and girls in government programming and policymaking;
  5. Facilitate conversations, file and pass well-consulted laws on the dissolution of marriage, to stop the prevalence of domestic abuse and violence that largely and disproportionately victimize women and children forcing them to stay in abusive relationships and families that can leave them in a cycle of generational trauma; and
  6. Review and update the measures stated in Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act to strengthen its implementation provisions, especially within communities and schools.

Continuously slipping in global gender equality rankings

The call for greater efforts to empower girls and young women through appropriate and functional laws also comes after multiple reports that the Philippines’ ranking in global studies that assess gender equality performance has been declining.

Recently, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2022 Global Gender Gap Index[1] reported that the country fell two spots lower than last year – its lowest since the report started in 2006. The Philippines which received 19th place out of 146, however, placed second in the East Asia and the Pacific region next to New Zealand which ranks 4th globally.

Among its subindices, the Philippines fared worse in Educational Attainment, followed by Economic Participation and Opportunity. While there were no significant changes on other factors, the country still needs to pay attention to women’s Health and Survival and Political Empowerment.

“Our progress has been stagnant, if not declining, also because of COVID-19. It exacerbated the inequalities already experienced by girls and young women in the country. Before the pandemic, we were able to work closely with them in communities, but the quarantines, strict health protocols, and economic challenges set us all back,” adds Mau, 20, of Plan International Philippines’ Girls Get Equal campaign.

In a similar report launched in April 2022, the 2022 SDG Gender Index by Equal Measures 2030[2] positioned the Philippines 61st out of 144 countries in its gender equality list. The Index reveals the world’s progress on gender equality, based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Working together with the 19th Congress

“We need to make more progress and make up for our losses during the pandemic. The road ahead will be bumpier and rougher, for sure, but our vision and destination remain. We cannot do this alone. We need our new leaders and champions in policymaking to join us – boys and men included!,” Carl of Y-PEER Pilipinas emphasizes.

More than filing and passing these proposed legislative measures, the youth sector hopes to become part of the processes in the legislative mill themselves to ensure that the contents and components of the bills are grounded, sharp, and apt for the needs girls and young women.

“We are just one text, call, or email away! Invite us to review and speak in consultations and hearings that are about us,” Graciella says. “We are capable and very much willing.”

The 19th Congress starts on July 25. Based on the roster, the Congress will be once again dominated by men with less than 70 women legislators out of 339 in both Senate and House of Representatives.

[1] https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2022/

[2] https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/SDG-index_report_FINAL_EN.pdf

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