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6. Prospects and Challenges

The women’s movement in the Philippines, as typified by the PILIPINA experience, has made significant headway in increasing women’s participation in politics. The combined experiences of the different women’s groups in political education and organizing and skills training in advocacy and governance have paved the way for the creation of a political pipeline where women are formed and trained to become public leaders from the local to the national level.

The diverse experiences of women in advocacy and networking serve as valuable lessons for their present and future engagements in the electoral arena. There is no doubt, however, that new strategies and skills have to be learned particularly at the local level. In the next few years, women working for increased participation in politics must build on local strength. Focusing on local intervention is both a practical as well as a strategic move. It is strategic because at that level, issues useful for the mobilization of women are not too far removed from everyday life and therefore are easier to understand. Issues such as community daycare centers and community healthcare, for instance, are certainly more comprehensible than the macro-economic issues of debt or foreign exchange. Building on local and popular issues will help draw more women into action. It will also allow grassroots women more access to political processes and activities. Challenging elite and male hegemony in politics becomes possible only if more grassroots women leaders are visible in political institutions.

Giving emphasis to local intervention is also practical because actions and projects at the local level are manageable than those that have to be done at the national level. Structures of elite and male dominance are also easier to challenge at the local level. Establishing track records of women politicians in barangays, cities, municipalities and provinces will, most likely, lead more women to higher positions in government. Transformation of Philippine politics, after all, needs to be done both at the local and national levels.

In PILIPINA’s case, the framework on transformative/transformational politics of wielding "power with" rather than "power over" serves as an appropriate and necessary guideline for women interested in the work of formal governance. Nevertheless, this needs to be tested out in the daily, practical dealings of these women in the realpolitik of the country. Women, for instance, have to be keen in discerning strategy and tactics that will allow them to win in electoral contests and sustain positions of power without having to compromise long-held principles.

PILIPINA also has to deal with balancing its aim of projecting the autonomy of the women’s political agenda vis-a-vis the pursuance of its gender interest within a larger organization (e.g PILIPINA within the AKSYON! Party). It also has to be able to balance the assertion of the gender issue (e.g by forming an all-women political movement such as ABANSE) vis-a-vis the danger of feminist separatism.

The other important question is whether the years of women’s organizing and education and advocacy will necessarily translate into the harnessing of the elusive women’s vote. In the words of PILIPINA Chairperson Rina Jimenez-David: "Will ABANSE fly? Or will it only prove the assertion of political pundits (most of them male) that there is no such thing as a "women’s vote" in the Philippines and that women are their own worst enemies? Clearly, only the willingness to ‘celebrate our differences and affirm a new solidarity’ can ensure success." 41

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It is not certain whether women will be successful in engaging wealthy and traditional men in politics. There is no denying, however, that women have begun to seek for their rightful place in the arena of public decision-making. All opportunities – whether at the local level such as the LGC or at the national level such as the party-list election in 1998 – have to maximized. Moreover, while addressing the question of governance, political education and organizing will have to be pursued for the strengthening of the women’s movement.

The immediate and future challenge for the Philippine women’s movement is to transform government into a more just and gender-responsive institution of public power. Filipino women constitute half of the country’s population. Their voices must be heard, not just in the streets, but in the halls of power as well.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Oktober 2001

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