The tendency of people to develop a skewed sense of change over time is the fatal flaw of centuries-old agendas. Engulfed by the reforms that had happened in the last years, the illusion of having done more than enough for the cause is already amplified among the masses, obscuring their perception of advancement and impeding actual progress. This year’s International Women’s Day calls for a thorough review of the status of Filipino women in recent history—for it may feel like the country has already done enough for them when the work has barely even begun.

Cartoon by Maurice Gimena

Recent figures show that the Philippines remain unsafe for many women. According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey administered by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), one in four women aged 15-49 has experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their husband/partner. This is a cause for concern, considering that there are laws penalizing violence against women such as the Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004.

Apart from this, the women of the Philippines also face challenges concerning their employment. Despite placing 19th in the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report with 78.3% of the key gender gaps in the country closed, the labor participation of females lags behind the men’s with a 24.5% difference. This goes to show that regardless of the country’s overall standing on the Gender Report, depleting the gender gap within the workforce remains an unsuccessful attempt.

The lack of workforce involvement among women was attributed by the World Bank in their recent report to four main factors: (1) skills, (2) wage gaps, (3) care responsibilities, and (4) norms. These factors, however, boiled down only to one point—women still feel trapped within the outdated belief that it is the men’s responsibility to earn money while it is the women who look after their families and homes.

Daunting as these may seem, it is important that the masses get a glimpse of the reality every woman in the Philippines faces. Without acknowledging these problems, the feats conquered by the women who serve as our champions for change would be for nothing. After all, what would they be fighting for, if not these?

The call for gender parity does not suggest the ascendancy of one gender to another. It simply calls for a more even space, where men, women, and non-gender conforming people could exist in equity. Where every person, regardless of their gender, has access to the same privileges that are realigned according to the imbalances affecting every need.

True to this fight, Senator Risa Hontiveros continues to advocate for the rights of the Filipino people to gender-based protection in congress. Through the legislation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, every Filipino, but most especially, members of the LGBTQIA+ Community will be protected from any form of bigotry that is directed at their identity. This has never been more important considering that approximately 50 transgender lives have already been lost since 2010. The actual death toll could be much higher.

Lobbying the struggle against the systematic attempt on silencing the media, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa continues to serve as a beacon of hope and truth in the field of journalism. After enduring countless attempts of censorship from the previous administration, Ressa remains true to holding the line and defending press freedom while battling the gears of disinformation within social media.

In the end, complacency still is the enemy of progress. The country must not let a movement that heralded changes that altered the trajectory of this nation be dulled by a false sense of progress. Yes, we are living in the Philippines which recognizes the role of women more than it did a hundred years ago, but that is not enough. A lot is left to be done. That is a fact. Women’s Day or not, the country must continue to honor the path paved for us by every woman who dared to make a change— the path that would lead the nation to a more equitable tomorrow.

Letting these droplets of change quench our thirst for a better Philippines would be a mistake. The Filipino people, in pursuit of gender parity, must continue to ensure that the laws protecting every woman such as the Magna Carta for Women, the Safe Spaces Act, and Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act are being enforced. The Congress, true to the oath they swore into office, must continue to push for the legalization of divorce, decriminalization of abortion, and the passing of SOGIE Equality Bill, as these will provide not just the women of our country, but everyone, the chance to seize control of their lives again and escape the oppressive situations they are in. Consequently, the executive branch must do its part in supporting these initiatives as well, for the highest office’s primary duty is to serve the best interest of the nation and its people.

May the Filipino people make the observation of International Women’s Day more meaningful by seeing it as something more than just the flowers, ribbons, and posters plastered across the streets. It is an avenue to honor the lives that have been lost due to injustices and a clarion call to strive for a better world not just for women, but for everyone. The coming years will bring forth more change. Though it is not clear what those would be, one thing is certain, we have wars yet to wage.