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[Transcript] Interview with Vice President Leni Robredo in Thailand

1 August 2016

VP LENI: Good afternoon! It is such an honor to be one of the awardees on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the King and the 84th anniversary of the Queen. The award is in honor of Queen Sirikit and it is such an honor not only for me but also for, in behalf of the Filipino women to have been included in your roster of awardees.

This gives us a message that Filipino women are being recognized not only in Thailand, but also in the community of ASEAN nations.

So, thank you very much for this recognition.

Q: [unintelligible]

VP LENI: Filipino women occupy a much better place now in our society than before. Our women leaders have been very active already.

In fact, but this is not to say that we are in competition with our men. We have always pushed for women empowerment as a big support system to the men.

But over the years, Filipino women have shown that they are capable of leadership positions. We have had several Filipino women presidents already.

I am the second Filipino woman vice president. We have several women members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. We have several women members of the Cabinet. And we have several women governors, mayors and local officials.

But more than this, I think with all the fields in our society today, we have seen how women leaders have asserted themselves already. This is a message that our women now are much more empowered compared to before.

There is much room for improvement, but I think we are on our way there in as much as over the years, we have shown our capability already. Again, we are not in contest with men but in support of them.

And I think, we desire to have more laws that will strengthen the position of women in society. We have passed, I was a member of the 16th Congress, the Congress that just ended.

I was a member of it and we are able to pass significant legislation to strengthen the position of women. And now that I am Vice President, I will further advocate for the passage of more laws that will elevate the status of women in Filipino society.

Q: Women council of the Philippines compared to the Thai council.

VP LENI: I will be very honest. I am not very familiar with the activities of the Thai women council. Although when you visited me, you already gave me a bird’s eye view of what the Thai women council has been doing here.

And we’ve been doing pretty much the same. We started on the national level for many, many years now. But we do realize that in order for us to reach the women in the grassroots, we also need to organize in the local level.

So that’s what we’ve been doing, we have passed a Magna Carta for Women, which requires all government offices to reserve 5% of its budget for gender and development funds. And this is not just for government offices on the national level.

All local government offices are required to set aside 5% of the entire budget for gender and development activities and that’s what’s keeping all our women councils alive in the sense that there’s a secure budget for their activities already.

This has been a very important weapon in making sure that the rural women in the grassroots are taught empowerment also but we have seen that the best way to empower rural women really is through economic empowerment, making sure that they have a chance at being economically independent and not just be dependent husbands.

This has given them the greatest power of all, realizing that they don’t have to depend on anyone for their daily needs, that they have the power to raise their own families because they’re economically independent.

Right now we’re pushing for more economic empowerment for rural women and we think this is the key to a higher level of empowerment for everyone.

Q: In Thailand we have Thai woman day but no Thai men day.

VP LENI: It’s the same in the Philippines, we celebrate Women’s Day every March 8 but we don’t celebrate a men’s day.

Q: We want you to give a message to all the women in ASEAN countries because we are here.

VP LENI: First of all let me tell everyone that it’s such an honor not only to be an awardee, not only that I’m being recognized but I am here with you, seeing everyone here, seeing all the ASEAN countries being represented by women leaders is enough message to everyone that indeed the status of women in ASEAN countries has improved over the years.

That being said, it is upon our shoulders to carry on the responsibility to make sure that the generations of women after us will be more empowered than we already are today.

You being here not only as representatives for your women’s clubs but also of the government is again sending a very strong message to everyone that women are here, again not to compete with men but women are here to send a message of unity, of compassion, of justice, of peace. We are the best ambassadors of all; I think the men know that.

As you have said in Thailand, the women are usually the treasurers of the house and the treasurers of the nation. In the Philippines that is the same; in fact now that we have so many microfinance organizations in the country, they don’t lend to the men.

Because, they said, the women are more trustworthy. That is not to say that men aren’t, maybe men are better in some other forms of activities but we’re here, as I’ve said, we’re here to be ambassadors of our own countries so let’s maximize that and send the message across, that we’re here to unite, to make sure that the women are better empowered in the coming generations.

Q: Ms. VP are there any police here, or from the army, for the women to be in the police?

VP LENI: Yes actually we have a lot, many women members in our police force, we have a lot of women generals, we have a lot of women members in the army, in the air force, and in the navy but we’re not satisfied yet, we want the numbers to be better. But we have a considerable number already.

That’s something that wasn’t the case before, in fact the military schools in the Philippines, there are actually two, the Philippine Military Academy, which trains soldiers who will join the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and there’s another one, the PNPA which trains police, these institutions are accepting women trainees already.

As I said we have women generals already but we’re not resting because we want to increase.

 

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