The Philippines is renowned for a plethora of reasons, among which is a surprising, yet hopeful, reason to get excited.
Among the majority of Southeast Asian nations (and countries across the globe), the Philippines stands proud as one of best-ranked in terms of gender parity. Our matriarchal system has put us above the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia in terms of gender parity. It’s an important win—one that finds its roots back in the pre-colonial era.
“In my experience, the Philippines has indigenous roots in matriarchal systems,” Clarissa Delgado, educator and CEO of Teach for the Philippines, explains. “As a disclaimer, it's hard to paint a brush across the 7,600 islands of diverse ethnicities and ethnolinguistic heritages. Still, perhaps there is enough to say that many were and remain matriarchies.”
Unlike most other countries in Southeast Asia, pre-colonial Filipino women were given the opportunity to engage in trade, fight as warriors, and even hold positions as babaylans [spirit guide] or religious leaders. Even the popular Visayan creation myth, Sicalac and Sicavay, finds the first man and woman borne from the same bamboo stalk. In this legend, woman was not created for nor after man, rather both were seen as equal partners in creation.
Despite the centuries-long colonisation of the country, the Philippines seems to have kept this ideal fairly intact. As with all societies, nothing is perfect, but for 2021, the country finds itself ranked with the same score as France on the Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR).
Published by the World Economic Forum, the GGGR assesses the scores of over 150 countries in terms of gender parity. This is according to four main aspects that include economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and survival. The Philippines ranked as 18, 39, 34, 33 out of 156 countries respectively, earning a total ranking of 17 out of 156.
Of course, having been standardised, the report lacks the nuance of Filipino culture, as experienced by those who live in the community. Not everyone may feel the high ranking that the GGGR has granted our society; and while the numbers for 2021 are encouraging, the current pandemic is another determining factor for the possible widening of the gender gap.