MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday, November 7, emphasized that men have a crucial role to play in helping empower women.
In her speech during the 1st Southeast Asian Women's Summit at Miriam College, Robredo emphasized the need to provide avenues for women to thrive in their respective fields. She said this allows them to help other women do the same.
"When women are given the chance to embrace their abilities and become the best version of themselves, they find the strength to rise above their circumstances and turn their troubles into something beautiful. They thrive and flourish and, most importantly, they allow other women to shine too," said Robredo.
She said the country needs women who are "willing to step up, speak up, and fight for what is right." (READ: Robredo to Filipino women: Feminism about 'building bridges')
The Vice President believes, however, that women empowerment will be more effective if men are involved as well.
"Women cannot win this fight alone. We need men – evolved ones, kind ones, brave ones who are willing to stand up and speak up against misogyny and bigotry, and help us create spaces for our women to lead in society," she said.
The Vice President, who was a human rights lawyer before she joined politics, is a staunch advocate of protecting women's rights.
She had said in an earlier women's rights forum that women empowerment is not about competing with men.
"Sometimes, it is about collaboration rather than leading. Sometimes, it is about following and encouraging others to follow as well," said the Vice President.
Standing up vs abuse
On Tuesday, Robredo recounted the time she practiced law in her home city Naga, where abused women often knocked on her door to seek refuge.
The Vice President recalled that she and her co-lawyers would work day and night on their domestic abuse cases to make abusers accountable. But once it was time for the victims to testify in court, the women would fail to show up.
"They were worried that they would have nothing to feed their children once they leave their husbands. It was increasingly apparent to me then that the solution to abuse against women is often financial empowerment," said Robredo.
This was why, according to the Vice President, she worked on creating livelihood and entrepreneurship programs for women when she was still Camarines Sur 3rd District representative. It is the same now in her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay.
"We saw a lot of them scale up from micro to bigger businesses, expanding their market to major cities and even overseas. Once they gained their confidence and saw their own potential, they began standing up against abuse," said Robredo.
The Vice President then urged the public to take advantage of the opportunities created by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community, which she believes will help women become competitive in the international labor market.
Robredo also called on lawmakers to make women's issues central to policymaking.
"Gender equality is not a soft issue. On the contrary, it is one of the most difficult and hardest issues that policy makers will face. Rape, harassment, and discrimination do not just cripple us socially, they also hurt our ability to build a better world for our people. Failure to capitalize on the potential of women to improve human resource productivity would certainly be a missed opportunity," she said. – Rappler.com