Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and
NEDA Director-General

14 August 2014, 2:00 PM
Oracle Hotel, Quezon City

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Let me thank the Philippine Commission on Women, headed by Chairperson Remedios I. Rikken, for organizing this event and for gathering our colleagues in government and civil society partners together in promoting gender equality and women empowerment in the country. I would also like to recognize the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Councils (RDCs) and the Regional Gender and Development Committees (RGADCs) who are here with us today to share their experiences on regional gender and development (GAD) mechanisms.

The World Economic Forum recently identified our country as the best performer in the Asia-Pacific Region in terms of gender equality. Of the 136 countries surveyed, the Philippines ranked 5th in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, thanks to decades of work  by gender advocates in civil society, government, academe, and the private sector. However, this does not mean that we can now afford to be complacent. If anything, this should inspire us to continue working to address issues like maternal mortality, violence against women and children, political empowerment, and equal economic participation and opportunity, among others.

As we all know, gender issues permeate all aspects of human interaction and development. Poverty, inequality, agriculture, industries, employment, finance, social services, governance, peace and security, environment and natural resources, even infrastructure development– all these interact with gender concerns.  As long as gender inequities exist, Philippine development will never be truly inclusive.

Thus, if we are to achieve inclusive development, we must ensure that all of our strategies, programs, projects and activities, are responsive to gender needs. By ensuring that men, women, and LGBTs are able to fully participate in and benefit from the country’s development, we are also ensuring that the country’s growth will be more rapid and sustainable. This is why the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 Midterm Update incorporates gender concerns in several key areas. Gender-responsive strategies have been identified and are being implemented, particularly in the areas of social welfare, financial inclusion, access to justice, peace-building in conflict-affected areas, human trafficking, security sector reforms, and management of the environment and natural resources.

This event provides a very timely opportunity to ensure that gender equality is achieved all over the country. The summit’s theme, “Strengthening Regional Mechanisms for GAD Convergence”, highlights the crucial role of national, sub-national, and local mechanisms like the Regional Development Councils and Regional GAD Committees in integrating gender and development at the regional and local levels.

Allow me to mention some of the challenges that we must address to ensure that development strategies are gender-responsive.

To ensure that the country’s development is truly inclusive and sustainable, we need to facilitate the creation of equal growth opportunities across regions and localities, and address regional and local gender and development concerns. We need to focus our efforts on improving gender equality outcomes, particularly on enabling more men and women to enter formal employment, ensuring that men and women receive equal pay for equal work, and on ensuring that the rights of women workers are protected.

Second, we need to ensure that GAD activities of various institutions are done collaboratively, instead of conflicting or overlapping. The National GAD Resource Program and the Local GAD Resource Program (LGRP), which will both be presented in this summit, will be a starting point in identifying regional GAD partnerships and convergence mechanisms. These will also clarify the roles and processes in providing GAD-related technical assistance to Local Government Units (LGUs) and Regional Legislative Assemblies (RLAs).

The Regional Development Councils play a crucial role in integrating these efforts in the regions. First is by providing an important forum to strengthen gender and development planning and policy-making, which includes reviewing and endorsing regional programs and projects that are gender-responsive.  Second is by accelerating the participation and equitable representation of women in society so that they can fully realize their role as agents and beneficiaries of development. We should stress, in accordance with the GAD Budget Policy, that the RDCs are mandated to promote and direct the inflow and allocation of GAD budgets and investments in the region to support regional development objectives.

This summit provides a great opportunity for our RDCs and Regional GAD Committees to discuss our milestones or scorecards and assess how we are faring in terms of gender mainstreaming at the regional and local levels. Hopefully, we can also identify the bottlenecks or challenges in our current practices and make sure that specific measures for gender mainstreaming are effectively in place at the regional level.

I encourage all the RDCs and Regional GAD Committees to continuously use and advocate for the Harmonized Gender and Development Guidelines or HGDG in developing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating programs and projects.  This was formulated to ensure that programs and projects are gender-responsive and that gender equality gaps are addressed.

Finally, I urge all of you to strengthen your respective regional GAD mechanisms by enhancing capacities on recent gender mainstreaming policies, guidelines, and tools. Regular sharing of best practices among different agencies that implement gender-responsive programs and projects must also be facilitated. This would significantly help in identifying partnership strategies and convergence mechanisms, and in forging collaboration towards sustainable GAD initiatives at the regional and local levels.

Today’s summit is only the beginning. I believe that through our concerted efforts, we can make a difference in the lives of marginalized groups and women in the Philippines. Here’s to the success of this initiative that would bring us several steps closer to inclusive growth.

Thank you and I wish you all a productive summit.

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