Historic St. Petersburg provided the perfect backdrop to a productive IPU assembly – and a quick morning run I managed to squeeze in
Legislative Agenda for 2014
On the first Saturday of the year, my amazing Senate legal team indulged me and let me buy them a cup of coffee each Read More
IPU Conference on Gender and Politics: At the Houses of Parliament in London
One of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)’s objectives is to support the increase of women in politics.
London Part I: Women Power thru Pinay OFWs and the Queens of England
After my conference in Geneva, I flew to London. I had requested the Philippine Embassy to set-up a dialogue with the Pinay OFWs, particularly the nurses. I have been working on our problem brought about the migration of our health professionals and knowing that we had a large number of nurses in the UK, I wanted to meet them.
Before the meeting, I chatted with Ambassador Lagdameo who is an old friend of my mom and dad. He knew my parents when they were still studying in the University of Michigan and actually gave me my very first present when I was born! Imagine that. It was a delight chatting with him. I asked him and Con Gen de Vega about their visit to the queen where the ambassador presented his credentials and they had to bow and curtsy 3x in keeping with protocol.
I was delighted to be among such an empowered group of Pinays! Among others, the group included a nurse, teacher, businesswomen, solicitor, domestic worker, chef and urban planner.
We had a lively discussion at the Embassy. Ambassador Lagdameo and Consul General Tess de Vega welcomed everyone. I began by giving the women a background of the issues affecting women and why I believe legislation and policies still need to be improved. I talked to them about the Magna Carta of Women. I also mentioned the Millennium Development Goals and the salary standardization law (see my previous blog on the discrepancy between the salaries men and women. I explained my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), where I currently am the President of the Women Parliamentarians.
For this talk, I focused on migration issues and how migration affects both the OFWs and the families left behind. I emphasized the need to create more programs directed at the social impact on OFWs and their families.
After my talk, we had an open forum to give the women a chance to air their views and concerns. Many of them spoke of the long hours they endured to send money back home. Many worked 2-3 jobs! But despite the long hours, they felt rewarded and fulfilled in their ability to improve their standards of living and provide for their families.
They also spoke of the difficulty of being away from their families, the frustration of not getting the support and understanding they needed from loved ones back home. Many nodded their head, when one woman spoke about the despair of working so hard and yet feeling unappreciated.
They were a hardy happy set of women, confident about the lives they made for themselves in the UK. They spoke of improving their support system for newcomers to help them adjust to the lifestyle in the UK and the need to encourage Pinays to get better by getting a better education.
The next day I went to the Financial Learning Campaign sponsored by the Central Bank and the Philippine Embassy. I think this is a great program and committed my support for continuing financial literacy programs for the OFWs and their families back home.
In between those meetings, I was able to visit a few historic sites including the Tower of London and West Minister Abbey. I am an enthusiastic student of history, including English history. And I was thrilled to visit the places, I had only read about in the past. I have always believed that we can learn a lot if we look back into history.
Suffice it to say, at a time where women were subservient to men, England had a succession of Queens that ruled the land. Each of these Queens have their own stories to tell. I’ve been reading about the lives of queens, including Queen Katherine of Aragon (first wife of King Henry VIII), Queen Mary and her sister Queen Elizabeth (daughters of King Henry VIII). If I can find the time, I hope to blog about my thoughts on the lessons we can learn from the women and the Queens of England in 15 and 16 century England.
Parliamentarians Meeting (Part 2 of my Ethiopia trip)
I never thought I would find myself in Ethiopia. But then again I never imagined I would be a senator. So, here I am a senator representing the Philippines and presiding over the meetings of women parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). I was elected President last year in South Africa and as such, travel quite a bit ensuring that there is a gender perspective in the discussion of all issues, whether it be climate change or the global financial crisis.
The IPU’s philosophy is that true democracy can only be achieved when men and women work as partners in the governance of their countries. Thus, the IPU provides a fora for the discussion and exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics among women parliamentarians. It also initiates meetings and discussion panels that promote the participation of women in the political process.
The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians took place on Sunday, April 5, 2009, the highlights of which were:
The financial crisis and its effect on women:
What was noteworthy was the consensus that women and children are the ones primarily hit by the financial crisis. Food supply is affected, budgets for and access to health care and social services are at risk. Women, being the homemakers are the first to feel and suffer these effects. The women parliamentarians voiced their concern that any discussion and eventual solution to this crisis should include a gender perspective.
Climate Change, sustainable development models and renewable energies:
The women broke up into two groups to debate this topic from a gender perspective. The first group focused on climate change and the second group on renewable energies. This was a very interesting topic and I found myself rushing from one conference room to another to participate and get as much from both discussions as I could. I will blog about this separately.
Debate on Women in politics. This session began with a report tracking the number of women in parliaments around the world and highlighting progress and setbacks. The floor was then opened for interventions. I shared my ideas on the progress and setbacks in the Philippines which I believe is similar in many countries.
Other topics of interest were:
Countdown 2015: Millennium Development Goals.
One of our panel discussions was on the Countdown 2015. This is a program involving UNICEF, WHO and various partners that monitors the progress of different countries in achieving the millennium development goals. Like the Philippines, Ethiopia is on target to meet goal no. 4 which is the reduction of the child mortality rate. Both the Philippines and Ethiopia are not on target for goal no. 5, which is maternal mortality rate. I have been working on this in the senate and will report on this again soon.
After this session, I joined some of the parliamentarians in visiting a health center as part of the immersion program of the World Health Organization.
Adolescent Girls: The girls left behind?
The panelist presented the sad reality that adolescent girls are vulnerable to gender-based discrimination and gender inequalities. They are exposed to violence in the very places where they are suppose to be protected their homes, communities and schools. They are also at risk to HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. Adolescent girls, as first time mothers also are high risks for maternal mortality. I participated in this discussion and brought up the plight of our adolescent girls who are victims of abuse in their own homes, particularly where the mothers are away at work or OFWs.
Gender Partnership Group.
The Gender Partnership Group of which I am a member, monitors the number of women in parliaments around the world. They likewise track the attendance of women parliamentarians at the IPU and meet with the representatives of countries that don’t have women parliamentarians with the objective of understanding what the obstacles are and providing assistance to promote women’s involvement in their parliaments.
Meeting with representatives of the US Congress:
I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of the US Congress. Believe it or not, the US has not been a member of the IPU for about a decade. My task was to present to them the work of the women parliamentarians at the IPU. One of the US representatives Nancy Wilson talked about the welfare code she drafted when she was a Senator under Bill Clinton’s administration. She will be sending me more information on this.
Meeting Lucy, the first homo sapien
The Ethiopians take pride in being one of the cradles of human life. Thus, their theme: Ethiopia: Where it all began. I made sure that I visited their national museum, which turned out to be the only downtime activity I had. The exhibit of fossils found in excavation sites in Ethiopia and the explanations were very interesting.
The full report of my work in the IPU will be on my official website soon.
My Life in a Suitcase (Part 1 of my Ethiopia trip)
I hate living out of a suitcase. But I have to. My job requires that I travel quite a bit. Anywhere from a short 24 hour trip somewhere in the Philippines or longer trips anywhere in the world. As of this writing I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, where I am currently president of the women parliamentarians.
I always always pack with the intention of traveling light, but it just never happens. There are just too many things I need to bring to keep me within my comfort zone when I am away from home. What I bring depends on where I’m going, what I’m doing there, how long I’ll be gone.
A lot of my trips are work related so need to bring a few business suits, accessories and shoes that go with it. Trying to mix and match is key so I don’t have to bring too much stuff.
My attire of choice will always be casual and comfortable. That means, anytime I can get out of a business suit, I will. I always bring a pair of jeans and some casual tops.
I will never travel without my running shoes and gear. This changes slightly depending on the weather and whether I will be doing indoor training or outdoor. If it’s a city I am familiar with and I know its safe to run, then I will definitely be running outdoor, even in the cold.
If I have a race coming up and need to do run intervals, then I’ll bring my garmin gps so I can monitor my pace and distance while running outdoor.
I almost always bring a swim suit, goggles and caps. A lot of hotels have pools and swimming is always a relaxing work-out for me.
I always bring my own snacks. I pack nuts, wheat crackers, pretzels and low fat cheese sticks. If I’m living out of a hotel, I also bring instant oatmeal , cerelac and granola which I mix together. This is the easiest most nutritious breakfast on the go. If my hotel comes with free breakfast, well then, that’s another story.
My emergency medicine ( a lot!), vitamins and food supplements, coded by the number of pills I need to take per day “ some are once a day, 2x, 3x and 4x.
Gadgets and toys.
My lap top. For all the obvious reasons.
My kindle “ this is my latest treasure. It’s amazon’s e-book. I have some 30 books in my kindle right now. Just knowing I have this wide selection of reading material, keeps me calm.
My celphones. “ this is when I bring 2 phones. My regular phone and an extra one to use with a local sim card which is always cheaper.
Portable luggage weighing gadget “ amazing gift I got from my mom. I will never have to stress about my luggage being over weight again!
Brain game “ one of my compact games that challenge my mind and entertain me when I’m bored.
My girlie things
Make-up. If it’s a business trip, I need to bring a wider assortment of make-up. I’ve learned to simplify this and can fit everything into one small make-up kit. Otherwise, I survive with my bronzer and lipstick.
My skin care products including sun block.
I’ve kinda stopped bringing a dress watch. My sports watch is beige/bronze which will work with most of my outfits. If its really off, I just take it off.
One or two custom jewelry to wear with my business suits.
I just recently bought this collection of stapler, clips, post its etc.
Papers and reports I need to read and review.
So there. After all these years of traveling, I’m still going over this list, thinking of ways I can travel lighter but still be happy.
Women: The Unpaid Worker
All over the world, women perform unpaid work as homemakers and care-givers. Imagine this: Ms. A is a mother and takes care of her three kids and her elderly parents. She cannot work outside the home. Compare this to another woman, Ms. B who works outside her home. Ms. B cares for the children of another family. Ms. B is a paid worker for caring for other children. Her work is recognized. She will obtain benefits like medical insurance and retirement. Unlike Ms. A. who is invisible to the productive world, has no protection, no rights and benefits.
What can we do to uplift the plight of people, mostly women like Ms. A? This was the topic of the Inter Parliamentary Union’s conference, which I chaired at the United Nation’s last week. I summarized some of the key points of the speech I delivered at the session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
We need to reduce the burden of unpaid work and promote equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Historically, women have been the homemakers and care-givers. But today, many women need or want to be part of the work force. This, men need to take on more responsibilities at home.
Many countries have ratified relevant labor conventions. But each country needs to review their national policies and legislation that relates to workers with family responsibilities, that recognize women as part of the labor force, that provide maternity protection, breast feeding support, reasonable hours of work, and so on.
In determining the right policies, we need to emphasis the importance of a gender balanced approach to care-giving (as opposed to focusing on the woman alone) and the need to develop measures to support a more active role of men in care-giving.
There needs to be a change in mind-set. Likewise, action needs to be taken to address gender stereotypes. This begins with education and promoting gender equality and addressing gender stereotypes in school curriculums and grassroots programs.
There also needs to be institutional changes, say in parliaments. We discussed the difficulties faced by women in politics. Parliament was historically a male only profession. Many of its traditions still endure, making it difficult for women to enter or survive (more on this in another blog).
We also noted that during time of economic uncertainty, governments may tend to reduce spending on social services. The consequences of this move would be tremendous. This would put more stress on an already over-burdened health and social services/welfare sector. Without reliable health care and social services, women again will bear the bigger burden “ a burden that will go unrecognized and unprotected.
Back in our respective parliaments, we need to look at the tools at our disposal to bring the value of unpaid care work to the fore. We need to question our national accounts systems, make use of time-use surveys and most importantly, use the national budgetary process to take into account the contribution of unpaid care work and provide support to those who perform it.
As an aside, I note that in the Philippines, there are a lot of families where the man is now the primary home-maker and care-giver. For more reason we need to address gender stereo-types. These stay-at-home dads, need the support and in many cases the training needed to be good home-maker and care-givers.
In conclusion, we need to to reassess how we view women’s unpaid work. We need to put in safeguards and protection for these women (and men). We need to recognize and reward women’s various contributions to the economy and promote a more gender balanced approach to the sharing of responsibilities.
n.b. this is part of a series of articles I am writing in connection with our observation of Womens month and the conferences/meetings I attended in New York.
Meeting with Legislators from Around the World (IPU)
I attended the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), where I am the Vice President of the Committee on Women Parliamentarians last April 29 to May 3 in Bali Indonesia. At the meeting of the Women parliamentarians, we discussed the effect of globalization and (1) how to empower women workers and entrepreneurs, and (2) improving working conditions for women.
I presented the situation in the Philippines- the high demand for our health workers, particularly our nurses and how this creates employment opportunities, but on the downside, results in brain drain, a health crisis and its negative impact on children with absentee parents.
I also discussed the growth of the ICT sector, including call centers in our country and how we can further strengthen the growth of this sector with relevant educational and training programs, with the hope that this would open more job opportunities for women. That’s me and Director Carmen Arceno.
In the IPU’s 2nd standing committee, I presented the Philippine experience where we continue to conduct interfaith dialogue on the national, regional and international level.
I also attended the meeting on global warming where various speakers and delegates expressed their opinions on the matter. I shared with some delegates my view that there is a need to distinguish the response and responsibility of developing countries from that of industrialized countries. Our lifestyles and industries are very different and although all nations must do their part to address global warming, certain countries must be accountable for the effects of GW which we are all experiencing.
On the lighter side, I got a chance to see a bit of Bali with my good friend Mona Valdes, who happens to be Indonesian. As you can see, we met a friendly monkey while visiting a hindu temple.
I also tried lots of super delicious Indonesian food, my favorites were esteler, which is like halo-halo, except made with fruits and coconut milk…
… and a specialty of the street vendors –martabak (and I’m probably not spelling that right) and Dutch pancake complete with condensed milk, grated cheese, chocolate and peanuts…which Mona said, put me back 1000 calories per serving!!!…After all that yummeee food, I was happy to go home.
For more details on the IPU, please visit my website at www.senatorpiacayetano.com