Challenging Philippines to be at Forefront of Promoting Women’s Agenda and Human Rights in the ASEAN in 2017

Quezon City, Philippines– 17 November 2016

Women’s organizations from different sectors and provinces of the country discussed the Women’s Agenda for the Philippine Chairship of ASEAN in 2017.

The Philippines is the host of the ASEAN in 2017 with the theme, “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.” The year 2017 also coincides with ASEAN’s Golden Anniversary.

The women’s groups raised critical issues on ASEAN, and called for the Philippine government to take the lead in promoting gender equality and human rights in its chairship of ASEAN in 2017. The national network Philwomen on ASEAN, and other women’s organizations presented the “Philwomen Platforms” which covers the priority issues that constitute the Women’s Agenda. These include 1) violence against women, (including trafficking and prostitution, violence and discrimination against lesbians, bisexual women, and trans people (LBTs), violence and discrimination against women with disabilities), 2. addressing women’s economic empowerment/ women’s economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) (including lack of access to and control over land and coastal resources, discrimination in formal and informal work, labor migration, and displacement and lack of access to decent housing); 3. women’s issues on environment and climate change; and 4. Strengthening women’s political participation in decision-making processes of ASEAN. Anchored on feminist economic justice, or feminist justice, the groups recommended particular attention to the economic dimension of women’s issues, e.g. informal economy, rural development and poverty, stigma on women affected by HIV, the economic dimension of VAW, etc. Specific issues of different sectors from women with disability, indigenous women, LBT women, and other groups were also underlined.

Under the new administration, with the President’s different style of leadership, the groups found that there are challenges to women’s rights advocacy in the country, let alone, in ASEAN. There remains a lack of awareness of ASEAN in the communities. The women’s groups called the attention of the government to hold dialogues with women especially marginalized communities in the remote areas and inform them about ASEAN, especially the economic integration and its implications to their rights and livelihoods.

The women’s groups maintained that the instutionalization of CSO participation should be pursued. The Philippine government should continue to be proactive in engaging the civil society. The Philwomen network has been taking the lead in calling for an institutionalized space for dialogues and engagement where the Women’s Agenda can be raised. The Philwomen on ASEAN Network is the co-convenor of the national organizing committee for the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/ APF),which is the parallel event of the CSOs to the ASEAN Summit in 2017. The network will work on making the Women’s Agenda ate the center of the ASEAN Agenda, including in the ACSC/ APF. The network is set to launch campaigns next year during the ASEAN Summit to call for state obligation and accountability of the ASEAN as a regional body; and of the individual ASEAN Member States, most importantly, the Philippines.###