Editorial: Closing gender gap

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

HOW valuable is education in the fight against poverty?

Last March 10, Sun.Star Cebu’s Princess Dawn H. Felicitas reported that of the P70 million proposed in the Local Poverty Reduction Action Plan (LPRAP) of the Cebu City Government, P14 million or 20 percent will go to skills training for the urban poor (P4 million) and unskilled workers and out-of-school youths (P5 million), as well as for the purchase of welding machines for skills training (P5 million).

The LPRAP lists livelihood assistance, capital, wheelchairs, water tanks, electrification and shelter. If the P70 million can be raised by the National and Cebu City Governments, the 20 percent allotted for skills training in 2015 is better than nothing.


Gender inequality

The LPRAP also targets persons with disabilities, vendors, disaster victims, the abandoned and homeless, and lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Of those who will be availing themselves of skills training, how many will be women and girls?

For the jobless, skills training is a way out of poverty.

But to those who are female, uneducated and out-of-work, skills training may not only be a means out of poverty.

It can also empower women to fight and triumph over violence.

Lack of skills can “disempower” women and make them “prone to abuse and violence,” Edna Lee, professor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, said during a recent forum on the plight of women due to disaster and human trafficking.

Last March 12, Sun.Star Cebu’s Kevin A. Lagunda reported that the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) puts the Philippines fifth out of 136 countries with the least gender disparity.

The country also leads the rest of Asia in eliminating or minimizing gender disparity through educational attainment, health survival, political empowerment, and economic participation and opportunity, according to the WEF index.

Ending violence

Despite these gains, UP Cebu professor Rhodora Bucoy emphasized a crucial gap in gender equality caused by violence against women.

The UP Cebu forum focused on the abuse of women in evacuation camps and by human traffickers.

Senior Insp. Maria Theresa Macatangay, head of the Regional Anti-human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) 7, called on the academe to help educate students about human trafficking, as well as conduct studies to investigate the issue.

The contributions of learning, particularly through skills training and livelihood and capital assistance, should also be highlighted in empowering those victimized or in danger of being victims of violence.

Knowledge of their rights and their courses of action to end violence enables victims to rise above their situations. Having the means to support themselves and their children helps former victims to heal and move on.

Financial dependence on intimate partners shackles many women from speaking out about their abuse and pressing charges against their abusers. In cases of incest and child abuse, wives blame their daughters for “seducing” their partners because they do not want them jailed and unable to support the family.

Even among the wealthy and educated, financial dependence prevents women from facing the reality of their physical, emotional and financial abuse.

Helplessness, self-blame, denial and powerlessness—only when the disempowered are freed from the mentality of victimhood can one truly say that gender disparity no longer exists. Education is crucial for this process.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 17, 2014.


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