President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been widely criticized for regularly making sexist remarks, said the government had taken steps to “create an environment where women’s rights are respected” as the country marked International Women’s Day.

Duterte called on Filipinos to support advocacies that seek to fight for and acknowledge the rights of women as equal partners of men.

“Let us elevate women to their rightful place in society by empowering every Filipina to break not only the barriers that have long hindered them from reaching their full potential, but also the backward mindset that fueled a culture of gender oppression and inequality,” the president said in a statement.

“While there is still much to be done to completely free women from this bondage of inequality, we can nonetheless proudly claim that concrete, sustainable, and inclusive actions have been taken by our government to create an environment where women’s rights are respected and their contributions to society are recognized,” he added.

Collective action needed — Robredo

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo urged women to band together and “continue the work” on women empowerment.

“We need as many women and allies as possible banging against the glass ceiling and creating spaces where all genders can flourish and contribute to society,” Robredo said.

The vice president said there were still places where women are “denied an education, forced into marriages, and left with no choice but to dream smaller,” making the situation “far from ideal.”

“[E]ven in spheres where women participation has improved, gaps in gender balance at the highest levels of leadership still need to be filled to truly create a more inclusive, holistic climate of change,” Robredo said.

Robredo also pointed out that there were still cases of domestic violence and lack of access to reproductive health services “under the shadow of the pandemic.”

The international celebration of women’s day coincides with the Philippines’ National Women’s Day. The eighth day of March of every year was declared a working special holiday to mark National Women’s Day through Republic Act No. 6949, approved in April 1990. John Ezekiel J. Hirro and I.G. Trinidad