Everything I learned from the Women’s Day Summit 2019, Part 3

The final panel was called “Magnifying Women’s Voices and Participation.”

The panel featured Sen. Risa Hontiveros; Bita Rasoulian, Austrian ambassador to the Philippines; Lt. Col. Jan Chavez Arceo of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and Cherrie Atilan of AGREA. It was moderated by Annalisa Burgos.

Watch the panel on this Facebook video.

Read Part 1 of this blog post here, and part 2 here!

Risa Hontiveros

I have heard Sen. Risa Hontiveros speak before, and it is always a joy to hear someone speak so clearly and calmly on issues that are so important to women. This instance was no different.

Follow her on Twitter: @risahontiveros.

The session was focused on amplifying women’s voices, and Sen. Risa said, “We’re still lacking in political empowerment.” We’ve had female presidents, sure, and female vice presidents. But it is still not enough. In an earlier session, Amina Rasul mentioned her mother, Sen. Santanina Rasul, who was the first Muslim woman to be elected to the Philippine Senate. There has never been another!

Even now, only six out of our incumbent 24 senators are female–and one of them is incarcerated.

How can women speak, participate, be active, when faced with so much adversity? 88% of women aged 18 to 24 have experienced sexual harassment. We have an administration that enables the harassment of women. Worse, their are women who enable and apologize for the men who harass.

In an earlier session, Dr. Sylvia Claudio called on men to use their male privilege to call out other men. Sen. Risa made a similar call. “We need men to call out other men.”

Ambassador Bita Rasoulian

If I were to recommend a speaker on female empowerment, on encouraging girls to get up and go after what they want, I would most definitely recommend Amb. Bita! I have only met one other female diplomat speak before, Amb. Rosario Manalo, who was Philippine ambassador to Sweden, France, Belgium, and the European Economic Community. Read about her career here.

Amb. Bita is something else. Beautiful, eloquent, witty and insightful. She started her talk by saying, “I long for the day when events like this will be a rarity, because that means gender parity will be a real thing.”

Women are greatly underrepresented in diplomacy. In the Austrian diplomatic service, there is only one female ambassador for every three men. The Philippine diplomatic corps probably has worse numbers. (I’d welcome real statistics on this!)

Amb. Bita shared a story about attending events with her husband. Often, they would be announced or introduced as “Amb. Rasoulian and spouse.” Then people would flock to her husband, greeting him, asking his opinion on foreign policy, current events, and so on, leaving her quite alone. “Men often don’t even think that there is gender inequality,” she lamented.

Like Sen. Risa, she said, “Feminism needs male allies.”

One of the things Amb. Bita spoke about was how women and girls often have to be lesser versions of themselves to be acceptable to society. “Have you ever had to be ‘less feminine’ to be more credible? have men ever had to be ‘less masculine’? Are boys ever called ‘bossy’? We’re taught that you have to be a lesser version of yourself, so you don’t emasculate.”

But why? Why can’t we be ourselves, and be counted? Carol Danvers is told, “You’re driving too fast,” or “You can’t make it,” but she retorts, “You let *him* drive.”

“As a diplomat, I am often the only woman in the room. I stand out. So I make the most of it.” I had never thought of it that way before! In science and technology events, I’m often one of a few women, if not the only woman. Why don’t I make the most of it?

What do women bring to diplomacy? “When you include women in the peace process, peace has 35% chance of lasting 15 years or longer.” (Read more here.)

She ended with a quote from Chimamanda Adichie, “We as humans have evolved. Our ideas of gender have not.” (Watch her Ted Talk here.)

Her advice to women and girls everywhere: Be true to yourself. Make yourself heard. Forge ahead. Break barriers.

Women in agriculture and in the military

The other two women in the panel were Lt. Col. Jan Chavez Arceo of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Cherrie Atilan of AGREA, and I regret that I wasn’t able to listen very closely to their talks.

Cherrie spoke about the difficulty of being a woman farmer, how agriculture is full of old men, and how she wants more women to go into farming.

Jan spoke about the programs in the AFP that support women, and talked about women in combat.

It was interesting to listen to their experiences, because these are not typically fields where you expect women, but here they were.

Women have come a long way, but there is still so much to be done. And I hope in my own little ways, among people who will listen to me, I can make things a little better.

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