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Gender Equality

As part of our group project, all the SERVE volunteers had to produce a video on  Gender Equality within the Badjao community. Certainly, in some ways, the Badjao women are empowered within the community, with c.90% of the community leaders being women. Speaking with some of the women, we learned that families are more inclined to send their daughters to school over the boys as the boys are required to work with their fathers on the sea. This enables the girls to achieve an education and skills which will help them find work and income in the future. However, efforts need to be made now to balance out the gender levels entering into education within the Tribe.

A major gender issue within the community is that of arranged marriages. The males parents offer a dowry to the family of the woman he wishes to marry. If they accept the dowry, the girl has no say in the matter, she must marry the man. Often, girls are forced into marriages in their early teenage years. This causes them to leave their education unfinished as they raise a family and commit to looking after the home and other marital duties placed on women in the Tribe. So, although families are willing to place their daughters in education, oftentimes they do not get to complete high school. Speaking with Sr. Evelyn of the Presentation Sisters, who has worked with the Tribe for over 20 years, she said one of her biggest goals for gender equality within the Tribe is for the girls to decide when to marry and to whom they marry. This would also aid the development of education within the community as more and more girls would finish school. She also says she would love to see a woman Chieftain, as to date, this is a role that has only ever been occupied by a man.

Some progress has been made with the issue of marriage. Whilst with the Badjao Community in Cebuoverseas, we heard that a number of the female students we had been working with had been proposed to but their parents rejected the dowry because they wished for their daughters to complete their education, understanding itsit’s importance for their own futures and the future of the Tribe as a whole. With more and more families committing like this, progress will continue to be made.

Gender inequality is not something that is limited to the Badjao community in the Philippines. The current President – Duterte – has publicly made some shocking statements, ‘joking’ about the issue of rape on more than one occasion, and continuously objectifying women in his addresses. Some argue that he has introduced a number of policies protecting women during his time as Mayor of Davao City (such as the Women Development Code of Davao City and Violence Against Women help deskshelpdesks etc.) and that he has committed to promoting gender equality in his Presidency. However, his language, even if he insists is used in a joking manner, suggests a lack of respect for women. If he really does want to promotetopromote gender equality he should act as a moral standard and use respectful language showing women as equals. This is the attitude towards women that he should be exemplifying to the people of the Philippines if he would like to see positive change. By joking about abuse and portraying women as sexual objects he is suggesting that such attitudes and behaviours are accepted in Filipino society and is counter-intuitive to his supposed commitment to gender equality going forward. Similar criticisms can be made of US President Donald Trump who made multiple crude remarks towards women during his Presidential campaign, earning himself a reputation as a misogynist. Both Presidents’ advisors have advised the public not to take their words so seriously however is it appropriate to advise the public not to take the word of their Leader at face value? it

I often think that gender equality is something that is often confused. What is our aim for gender equality? Too often people tend to sensationalise gender equality as a fight for women only, a numbers game to get as many women as we can into leadership roles to show how we’ve become ‘empowered’. Gender equality relates to all genders. It is not merely a case for a government or company to show statistics that their cabinet has a 50:50 split between men and women, the best people for the job should fill the position, and not be pushed forward or held back due to their gender. Women-only gyms and gym hours is a rising trend in the UK and Ireland, a large argument for their existence is to give women a comfortable place to work out to avoid male harassment, enabling them to get on with their session in peace. However this is also quite a discriminatory concept towards men who act in a respectful manner, and also bans homosexual males with no desire for the female anatomy. Some men who have paid the same annual membership fee as women have been banned from their gym for up to 442hours in the year so that women - only classes can take place according to the following article, Segregation and exclusion do not appear as adequate solutions to avoiding harassment in the gym. Rather, appropriate safeguards and procedures should be put in place, for both men and women who are made to feel vulnerable, so that offenders are dealt with and a safe space maintained.  As a woman, I would have no issue with the government cabinet being 80% male if they are the people with the best ideas and policies for equality and change for society at large. Likewise, I would expect for a man not to care if it was a 100% female cabinet should those candidates represent the publics needs in the best way. It is not merely a numbers game. I admit that I am no expert in the area and I have no extensive research covered but sometimes it is clear to see some hypocrisy in women who say they believe that men should not be presumed to be the provider, and yet expect the man to pay on a date. It is hypocritical of women to recall the unfairness of ‘Men-only’ golf clubs only to join a women-only gym. It is hypocritical of women to label a man as a ‘pervert’ for commenting on their appearance, only to objectify men themselves. Gender equality is an extremely important issue and a goal that deserves to be fulfilled and should always have been fulfilled, however we need to stop looking at it as a ‘them versus us’ scenario and start looking at it as ‘all of us, together’. Together, as human beings, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, country, religious beliefs and sexuality, have the power to make the world a more equal place. We should not fight for the rights of one above the rest but for the rights of all, together. It is only when we work as one, together, without segregation or bias, that we will truly make decisions that benefit all, and truly achieve equality.

About Author:

Name: Leonie O Donnell
Award: Silver Award
SDG: 5