As early as the 1930s, decades before the Philippine won its independence, a grassroots women’s organization called the Liga ng Kababaihang Filipina has laid the groundwork for the women’s right to suffrage and better working conditions in the country.
Filipino women won the right to vote through a national plebiscite on April 30, 1937, more than four hundred thousand women voted yes to voting rights. While the right to vote is essential to political participation, casting a ballot alone is not enough to ensure that women’s rights will continue to be upheld and that women’s issues will be addressed. It is also not enough to have women win elections and occupy positions of power, especially when they do not represent the people’s best interests and when they remain complicit to the oppression and marginalization of the disadvantaged and underprivileged.
With the elections fast approaching, women must continue to take the necessary steps towards our collective liberation. Politics goes beyond the elections, and our struggle for our rights to be recognized goes beyond the ballot. Advocates and allies for women’s rights and recognition must continue to support women at the frontlines of the struggle, and they must open up spaces and offer seats at the table that are reserved for the privileged few.
Women will not be denied their rights and their worth. As we commemorate the day that women have won and asserted their right to suffrage, we must remember to continue in our struggle for equality and justice for all.