by Arielle Celine Tabinga

Humans have always relied on innovation in creating transformative changes that improve the quality of life. Collaboration plays a critical role in innovation, it allows ideas, perspectives, and approaches to surface. To fully foster the benefits of collaboration, diversity must first thrive. But how do we encourage diversity across all disciplines if sexist ideologies are still apparent at the very core of our societies?

This toxic and ancient line of thinking has constantly fueled gender imparities, spurring negative judgement against women’s intelligence, behavior, and aptitude, has hindered the liberation of women for a long time. Liberation from the skewed notion that women are inferior to men and the “male-dominated” fields of science and technology, engineering, mathematics, and politics.

In celebration of the 2019th International Women’s Day, we are inspired to break this stigma through this year’s theme, “Think Equally. Build Smart. Innovate for Change.” The theme stresses the notion that gender is no barrier to innovation. This invites us to continually challenge the status quo and eradicate the pervasive consequences of gender discrimination. In order to create change and work around these inequalities, we have to make space for women in rooms where decision-making happen. By doing so, we are prioritizing what’s important to women such as safety, health care, and child care.

Women and men live and experience the world differently. A case I’ve personally observed was during my trip to Marabut, Samar to join the first Women-Led Solar Scholar Training led by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC). It sought to capacitate rural women on energy management, disaster risk reduction, and climate change. The women showed that they too, can operate solar power systems and become front liners in times of disasters. In my opinion, the presence of the women’s organization in the community contributed greatly to the project’s success. It was an anchor that encouraged the women of Marabut to participate in such initiatives.

During the event, I saw the reality that women in rural areas were the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, whether they are contributors or not. This is simply because their workload mainly caters to the economic needs of their families: food, clothing, and shelter among others. Often, they deeply rely on the available resources that the natural environment can provide. When environmental degradation persists in their communities, their productivity and ability to provide decreases. On the other hand, the roles that they are placed in would also mean they have the power to sustainably manage resources such as energy, water, and food. This links women as major players in the push towards sustainable development. If they are provided the proper training and awareness, more women can advocate for sustainability and influence policies at the local level.

This is the crucial and urgent call to public institutions as they have the capacity to lead, empower, and encourage Filipinas to become more assertive in communicating through their own voices. A woman simply being in the room changes everything… and to lead them there is going to be a challenge. Fortunately, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) spearheaded initiatives such as the certification of new GAD Local Learning Hubs, Gender-Responsive LGU Assessment Toolkit (GERL Assessment Tool), and Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan for 2019-2025 to combat gender discrimination in the country while advocating for cross cutting themes of climate change and sustainable development goals.

We need to change how we tackle social injustices. We need to let women re-imagine things and let them reshape our future towards a more compassionate outlook. By embracing diversity, we are providing countless opportunities for every Filipino. As Malala Yousafzai once said, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”