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Topic |  

boholano-thumbby Jose “Pepe” Abueva

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Only in 1990 did the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women consider equality in political participation of women as a priority issue.
In 1985 the Inter-Parliamentary Union of Women observed that “The low number of women in politics is detrimental for society as a whole.” But this observation did not capture much attention the world over, because many countries have been and still are dominated by males and are discriminatory to women.
Extraordinary women in top national leadership. In my research in leadership, extraordinary political leadership has been demonstrated by the following women leaders in recent and contemporary times. (1) PM Indira Gandhi in India (1966-67) (1980-84). (2) PM Golda Meir in Israel (1969-74). (3) PM Margaret Thatcher in U.K. (1979-90). (4) Corazon Aquino in the Philippines (1986-92). (5) PM Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan (1998-90; 1993-96) who was assasinated. (6) Chancellor Angela Merkel in Fed. Republic of Germany (2005-). (7) Yingluck Shinwatra in Thailand (2011-14) who was however removed by a military coup despite her popularity. (8) PM Geun-hye in Rep. of Korea (2013-).
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously observed: “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.”
Our “Tres Marias” or “Three Furies.” As 2014 ended, the Philippine Daily Inquirer selected and honored their “Person of the Year” who made the biggest impact on the life of the nation for their outstanding yet deceptively simple leadership: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and Commission on Audit Chairman Grace Pulido Tan. They greatly made possible the prosecution and jailing of our three high-profile senators for their stupendous plunder of pork barrel funds, and the investigation and emerging indictment of many more legislators.
National laws and policies favoring women in the Philippines. The Philippine Magna Charta for Women (R.A. 2710) advances women’s participation in all spheres of society. It provides that “the State shall undertake special temporary special measures to accelerate the participation of women in all spheres of society, particularly in the decision-making and policy-making processes in government and private entities to fully realize their role as agent and beneficiaries of development.”
Yet a news-commentary in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 7, 2015 observed that “while there has been significant improvement in the participation and involvement of women in key positions in government, disparities among men and women in elective posts and in traditionally male/female dominated agencies are still evident.”
“There are only six women out of 24 senators (27 percent) and (27 percent in the House of Representatives for the term 2013-2016. Women are still a minority in top level positions in agencies like public works, national defense, and law enforcement. While there is a high percentage of women in government workforce, most of them are in the second level positions. xxx The Philippine Commission on Women believes that more than numbers, the goal is enabling women to meaningfully participate in decision-making and effectively influence policies and program development in all levels.”
Women fighting corruption. Rina Jimenez David wrote: “Since emergence of women as a significant force in politics–two questions have dominated the field of research on women and politics. These are: Are women more or less likely to be corrupt? And how does corruption impact women as a group? A World Bank study conducted in 150 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia reveals that ‘there is a link between higher representation of women in government and lower levels of corruption.’” In another study, conducted by Transparency International and covering 60,000 households in more than 60 countries, it was found that “women are less likely than men to pay bribes.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer. Jan. 20, 2013)
But even as it would seem that women are less likely than men to engage in corruption (whether as bribe-takers or -givers), a United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) study finds that “women are more vulnerable to the impact of corruption than men particularly in public service.” For instance, “as (those holding) primary (responsibility) for child care, women have greater needs in health services (and) are subjected to sexual extortion in lieu of bribes.”
Women leadership and political participation in world parliaments.
• “Only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female as of January 2015, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995 [1].
• As of January 2015, 10 women served as Head of State and 14 served as Head of Government. Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide.
• Women there have won 63.8 per cent of seats in the lower house [3]. Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of January 2015, including 5 chambers with no women at all [4].
• The percentage of women in parliament has nearly doubled in the last 20 years. But this only translates into 22% of women in parliament today.”
Across regions of the world. “Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in each region, across all chambers (single, lower and upper houses). As of January 2015, these were: Nordic countries, 41.5 per cent; Americas, 26.3 per cent; Europe excluding Nordic countries, 23.8 per cent; sub-Saharan Africa, 22.2 per cent; Asia, 18.5 per cent; the Middle East and North Africa, 16.1 per cent; and the Pacific, 15.7 per cent. [5].”
Other domains of government
• “As of January 2014, only 17 per cent of government ministers were women, with the majority overseeing social sectors, such as education and the family [6].
• “Women’s representation in local governments has made a difference. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with male-led councils. In Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.”
Expanding participation.
• “30 per cent is widely considered an important benchmark for women’s representation. As of January 2015, 41 single or lower houses were composed of more than 30 per cent women, including 11 in Africa and 9 in Latin America [8]. Out of the 41 countries, 34 had applied some form of quotas opening space for women’s political participation. Specifically, 17 use legislative candidate quotas; 6 use reserve seats; and in a further 11, parties have adopted voluntary quotas [9].
• “In countries with proportional electoral systems, women hold 25.2 per cent of the seats. This compares with 19.6 per cent using the plurality-majority electoral system, and 22.7 per cent using a mixed system [10].
• “More women in politics does not necessarily correlate with lower levels of corruption, as is often assumed. Rather, democratic and transparent politics is correlated with low levels of corruption, and the two create an enabling environment for more women to participate[11].”
My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com

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