Rounding out its series of activities for this year’s Women’s Month, the Office of the Minority Leader organized and facilitated a webinar tackling Our New Politics: Women and Youth Moving Democracy Forward, where hundreds of women and youth participants had the opportunity to learn from Minority Floor Ledear MP Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia, Professor Yasmira Moner of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, and Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government. 

“Historically, democracy and representation were designed to exclude women,” MP Alamia reminded the audience during her lecture on situating women in decision-making spaces, but “representative democracy as we now know it promotes the inclusion of women built on the idea that women and men are equal, and have equal rights to participate in democratic processes”

However, she notes, “there are barriers that exist. For one, male leadership dominance in patriarchal systems coupled with traditional and harmful gender norms such as child marriages, all rooted in the subjugation of women, and structural barriers such as the unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities and financial resources.”

Women’s political participation, therefore, is all the more important because it “facilitates engagement in public decision making, ensures better accountability to women,” While increasing the number of women in leadership positions helps, she also says that it cannot stop there. 

“It’s not just representation,” MP Alamia emphasizes. “What is required are gender-sensitive reforms that will make all elected officials more effective at promoting gender equality in public policy and ensuring their implementation.”

Prof. Moner, on the other hand, noted the importance of activating the youth for democracy alongside efforts at empowering women. She said that it was “very relevant to activate and reactivate youth engagement in both formal political processes and informal political processes.”

“The youth is not apolitical,” Prof. Moner noted, “because we cannot escape politics.” The question we need to ask ourselves, she said, is “what kind of politics are we professing, and how do we translate policy into action?” 

Dean Mendoza continued the discussion with an emphasis on healing the current political divide, focusing on the “constraints that bind us” and grounding the ideals raised by MP Alamia and Prof. Moner on existing realities in the Philippines. 

He noted how “all that inequality which is persistent, structural and deeply embedded in our society becomes the rich landscape where populism can thrive. ” To address this, he said, we can begin by “capacitating young people because this will allow us to leverage both on the economic side a force for inclusiveness in development prospects and the political side to leverage the growing hunger of young people for change and reforms — a hunger not easily fed by populists.”

“If we want to begin to heal the country’s deep political, social, and economic divisions,” he said, “we must begin with the youth and investing in young people by tackling the deep roots of inequality and protecting those young people during crises, by making sure there are enough investments for them to realize their full potential, and by encouraging more young people to try and lead us towards a new changed politics in the country.”

“We have to open up democratic spaces for citizen empowerment and engagement, and have the humility to understand that we need transformative leaders,” he concluded.

The event was bookended by opening remarks from Provincial Director Atty. Alman-Najar Namla of the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission-Basilan and closing remarks from UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Leila Saiji Joudane, delivered by UNFPA Cotabato Sub-Office Head Rochelle Angela Yu.

This webinar is organized by the Office of the Minority Floor Leader BTA MP Laisa Masuhud Alamia in partnership with Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission – Basilan Provincial Office with United Nations Population Fund – Philippines (UNFPA), and Kalisa Action Network (KalisaAN).

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