The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) joins the nation in celebrating National Women’s Month. Pursuant to Republic Act 6949, March is dedicated to celebrating Filipinas and their contributions to society, and to honoring their continuous struggle for civil liberties, equality, human rights, and independence from society’s patriarchal structures. This year’s celebration marks the culmination of the 6-year theme, We Make Change Work For Women, and poses the question of whether or not targeted changes for women were implemented and, if yes, how they impacted the lives of women today.
The annual celebration has been codified into law through Proclamation No. 224 s. 1988, Declaring the First Week of March of Every Year as Women’s Week and March 8, 1988, and Every Year Thereafter as Women’s Rights and International Peace Day.
The CFO, led by the Gender and Development Focal Point System Technical Working Group (GFPS-TWG), conducted several initiatives in celebration of Women’s Month. These activities were held throughout March for female clients and employees of the Commission.
In his message, CFO Chairperson and Secretary, Justice Francisco P. Acosta (Ret.) reiterated that throughout history, women have always been great nurturers and leaders of their communities, and through the changing times, they have proven that leadership, brilliance, and strength know no gender. He conveyed his snappy salute to all women and girls for taking the limelight and radiating strength and reliability, most especially in times of crisis, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
INITIATIVES AND ACTIVITIES FOR WOMEN’S MONTH
At the entrance of CFO’s office hangs the banner for the 2022 celebration of National Women’s Month. The banner recognizes the different roles played by women in society in different industries and different aspects of social life. The same banner is found on the Commission’s website for digital visitors.
Throughout the National Women’s Month, clients were given CFO information and education materials such as tote bags, umbrellas, notebooks, fans, caps, and pens. Some expressed surprise that there was such an event and were very appreciative of the gesture. One client was particularly grateful for the kit as it was raining and she found the umbrella rather timely.
The dialogue on gender is constantly evolving. The advocacy of mainstreaming the discussion on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) is a mark of progress in the struggle for equality and inclusivity for all genders. CFO works hand in hand with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) in this advocacy through its GFPS-TWG, whose members attended the webinar on the basics of SOGIESC. CFO employees present in the office at the time also voluntarily joined the webinar. Many of the basic terms, concepts, and issues faced by different genders were discussed in the webinar. Attendees commented that while many of the terms used were initially alien to them, the webinar provided a thorough enough discussion to better equip them in striving to make CFO a safe space for men, women, and all genders.
Every first and third Monday of the month, the Commission holds a flag ceremony via Zoom. A portion of the two assemblies for March was allotted to a discussion of a presenter’s choice topic on women. The discussions, led by Ms. Keeshia Mae Acedera and Mr. Larry Garcia of the Administrative and Finance Division, shared the struggles and triumphs faced by Filipinas and how to overcome them.
WomenWin Quiz Bee: 3 Pics One Answer
During the first flag ceremony of the month, Mr. Paul Cristobal of the GFPS facilitated the women-themed quiz bee entitled “WomenWin 2022”. The questions tested the knowledge of the CFO employees on Filipino women who strived and succeeded to break the glass ceiling over the course of Philippine History. Women such as Hidilyn Diaz, Maria Orosa, and Dr. Fe Del Mundo were some of the personalities featured in the quiz bee.
Women’s Spotlight #WomenMakeChange
The latter half of March gave CFO employees the time to reflect on the important women in their lives. Employees submitted letters detailing their appreciation and admiration for the strength, courage, and merit of their mothers, daughters, co-workers, and key figures who played a vital role in making a difference in their lives and society as a whole. The submission that garnered the most votes was from the entry of Mr. Ferdy Marcos who shone the spotlight on his co-worker, Ms. Beth Rellama. In his letter, he expressed his admiration for her strength in raising her 5 daughters as a single mother.
On March 8, CFO celebrated International Women’s Day with a webinar for female employees entitled “www.women.com” where CFO’s medical officer, Dr. Finesse Evangelisa, spoke on the many aspects of a woman’s life, such as her physical, sexual, and mental health. Women’s relationships with their family, friends, and partner/s were also discussed. The all-female audience was very pleased with the webinar as they took the opportunity to ask Dr. Evangelista different questions on a variety of subjects. Their questions inquired about dermatological, gynecological, hormonal, and other medical issues faced by women.
Safe Spaces Act Webinar
A second webinar was held on the same week tackling Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act. With CFO’s legal counsel Atty. Elmar Jay Martin Dejaresco leading the discussion, the female employees were informed on how the law protects individuals from sexual harassment in public spaces and punishes those who would commit acts of sexual harassment and espouse misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia.
The color purple symbolizes justice and dignity, and it is globally recognized as the color of women. Every Tuesday in March, CFO employees wear the color purple to celebrate #PurpleTuesdays underscoring the Commission’s pledge to be an ally in women’s struggle for justice and dignity. The purple shirt includes a design made by the Philippine Commission on Women which highlights the various roles played by women in Philippine society.
CFO’s Continuing Safe Migration Campaign
Even during this time of the pandemic, the CFO continues conducting its community education program as part of its advocacy for safe and regular migration. The CFO’s Migrant Integration and Education Division spearheaded the webinar series which provides a venue to discuss the various channels or forms of trafficking specifically those in the guise of intermarriage and cultural exchange programs. These online activities aim to increase public awareness on the possible risks that may subject Filipino women to potential exploitation.
The intermarriage webinars, Ang Ibayo Kong Pag-ibig, tackled the issues of intermarriage such as domestic violence, mail-order spouse schemes, and trafficking, among others, where women are considered the most vulnerable. The CFO registration records show that majority of Filipinos in intermarriage or inter-cultural relationships are women, which comprise 91% (versus only 9% male). The participants of the said webinar series were solemnizing officers, local civil registrars, marriage counselors, and social workers from the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya.
Concluding the CFO’s activities for Women’s Month is the webinar Human, Hindi Laruan Webinar Series: Culture Discovered, Trafficking Risks Uncovered, which was aired via Streamyard, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The webinar discussed the exploitation proliferating through cultural exchange or immersion programs in various foreign countries, specifically in the US and some European countries. The online forum highlighted information on cultural programs available overseas, their objectives and benefits to the participants, legal ways of participating in these programs, challenges, and ways of preventing possible risks.
In echoing the Commission’s pledge to advocate for the elimination of discrimination against all genders and empower overseas Filipinos, Justice Acosta assured the Commission’s commitment to being an ally of all Filipino women who have truly emerged as strong and courageous individuals despite the many challenges.
Mabuhay ang Filipina!