Lunes, Oktubre 22, 2012

Gender Roles and the Civil Service

The Philippines has gone a long way in the area of gender equality as compared to many of its Asian counterparts. The rather ―more radical‖ perspective of Filipinos on gender relations has consistently placed the country among the best countries in terms of gender equality. As a matter of fact, according to a recent World Bank study, the Philippines ranked sixth out of 129 countries in gender equality. Also, in the 2011 Global Gender Gap rankings released by the World Economic Forum, the Philippines ranked eighth best country in the world. Most recently, in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index, the Philippines ranked 12th out of 86 countries.

Over the years, Philippine society has witnessed an evolution and a series of radical shifts in the roles assigned to the two sexes: male and female. During the pre-colonial period, women were highly regarded by the indigenous communities as they usually take the role of spiritual leaders, healers, and wisdom-keepers—in the form of the babaylan-- who provide stability to the community’s social structure.

The coming of our first colonizers changed the landscape in Philippine culture, practice, and even tradition. The society became highly patriarchal, pre-assigning men in vaious leadership positions: in the family, in government service, and even in religious organizations. Women assumed domestic roles, primarily concerned with the household chores. While men were valued by how much they could provide for the family, a woman’s worth then was judged by how well she could cook, clean the house, or take care of the kids. The society was clearly male-dominated, with women always being the abiding and subservient wife and worrisome mother. There was a clear asymmetry then in the culturally constructed gender roles. 

However, this scenario has changed dramatically over the years as great women have emerged in different fields and professions-- in the academe, business, and even in government service. More women are now holding managerial and supervisory positions in the public and private sectors; unemployment rate is lower in the female population as compared to men, with 32.4 percent unemployed women compared to the 67.6 percent of the total underemployed men according to the National Statistics Office as of October 2011; more women are holding legislative and judicial posts than ever before, not to mention our two female presidents. What had been a man’s world quickly transformed to both men and women’s world.

But despite these positive developments in gender relations, the country is still beset with problems such as domestic violence, crimes against women, gender stereotyping, discrimination, and double standards in the community and the workplace. In a World Bank report entitled ―Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific,‖ domestic violence is still ―unacceptably high‖ in the country as up to 5.6 million Filipino women have been abused by their partners. The report, which studied gender gaps in the area of economic opportunities, influence in home and society, and access to human capital and productive assets across the Asia-Pacific region, also said that women in the Philippines are paid less than men for doing similar work, earning 76 cents for every dollar that men earn. Not surprisingly, Filipino women are also said to be more likely to work in small firms and in the informal sector, and in lower-paid occupations. Some companies would even have bias in hiring pregnant women as these companies wouldn’t want to risk lower productivity and higher expenses caused by expected maternity leaves. 

News on violence against women still abound in the dailies and the broadcast media with rape and human trafficking being the top crimes where women are the usual victims. Many sexual harassment cases in the workplace are filed by women. Women are the usual targets of drug syndicates as shown in the November 2010 data by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency where 62% of those charged in other countries as drug mules were women while 38% were men. At home, between the working parents, the wife/mother is still expected to do the household chores and other home-related tasks. Clearly, there is still a disparity in our country’s and the citizens’ treatment of the female gender. 

Where does the government come in the picture insofar as gender responsiveness in concerned? How can civil servants play a role in creating a gender fair and even a women-empowered society?

A few years ago, a law banning discrimination against women, and recognizing and protecting their rights was signed and enforced in the country. This law known as Act 9710 or Magna Carta of Women was aimed at promoting gender equality and women empowerment in the country. The law also sought to ensure the equitable participation and representation of women in government, political parties, the civil service and the private sector while seeing to it that women are protected from all forms of violence. It also mandated the establishment of violence against women’s desks in every local unit and barangay. In education, the law requires that all educational materials and curriculums that tend to stereotype women be revised.

Also, women in marginalized sectors are guaranteed all civil, political, social and economic rights recognized, promoted and protected under existing laws. 

While the Magna Carta of Women has proven to be a milestone in the further promotion of gender equality in the country, there also has to be a paradigm shift in the roles of civil servants most specifically that would usher change in a seemingly problematic and still gender discriminating society. Civil servants must lead in the practice of gender responsive, accessible, courteous, and effective public service. And this has to start in the mindset. 

Government offices should see to it that its employees know their duties and responsibilities and perform these well. Aside from this, the government should provide continuous learning to the employees, from those with lower ranks to those holding managerial positions, through various trainings and workshops that would widen the horizon and further improve their knowledge and skills. Likewise, there should be a clear set of rules and regulations in each government agency that would guide the conduct of actions of civil servants—all for the promotion of integrity and committed service.

Being a civil servant myself, I have been wondering how I could be truly of service to my country and my countrymen. While not earning that much compared to those in the private sector, I believe true service means delivering beyond what is expected of me at work. This ―extended‖ service doesn’t necessarily mean working beyond the work hours, but it does mean giving my 101 per cent or more in every single work that I do—meaning delivery of quality output that would eventually benefit the country.

In my line of work as information officer, simply making sure that relevant information-- whether public announcements, breaking news, or government programs – reach the people the best way mode I could to educate and empower them through accurate and impartial knowledge/information. 

On a more personal way, being the embodiment of a respectful, honest, dedicated, and responsive civil servant through actions exemplifying such traits is one way of making others look up to civil servants. By having model government employees, more would be enticed to work for the government simply because it is made of honorable people, and because it is an honorable job. 

While so much has to be done in the world of public service and amongst the employees, positive change could be achieved first through good governance. By being open to new learnings and with the willingness to change old practices like those of the traditional and partial views on gender, for starters, the country is set to witness a dynamic social and economic transformation.

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