Girls, young women call for equal power

The role of girls and young women in shaping the development of local and global communities can no longer be denied.

With issues surrounding politics, health, education, and social welfare becoming increasingly complex, we need now more than ever for girls’ voices to be duly recognized in formal decision-making spaces as it is also their right.

The Equal Power Now: State of the World’s Girls Report 2022 launched by Plan International Philippines, indicates that girls and young women see their political participation as important for placing emphasis on social justice, education, and health in political decisions (65 percent), and for improving the situation of girls and young women in society (57 percent).

In addition, while voting was also one of the more common participation activities (49 percent), it is only ranked third compared to following politics on social media (54 percent) and following politics in different media (50 percent). The lowest ranked participation activity of girls in the Philippines is running for political office at any level (eight percent).

The respondents further identified the following as challenges: openness of politics (27 percent); being afraid to speak out about their views (26 percent); thinking that politicians would not listen to them (26 percent); and not understanding enough about political issues (20 percent).

The research surveyed almost 29,000 girls and young women, a thousand of which are Filipinos, aged 15 to 24 from 29 countries across different regions, income levels and civic contexts.

In light of the recent International Day of the Girl celebration last 11 October, Plan International Philippines vows to continue working for the advancement of children’s rights and equality for girls.

The humanitarian organization has been building partnerships with children for over 80 years. They are present in more than 75 countries, including the Philippines since 1961.

Women leaders of tomorrow

United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson and Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Variava, who have broken barriers and risen through ranks with ability and bravery, shared their gratitude for having a supportive family.

“I was fortunate to grow up in a household where both parents were teachers and took an active role in raising us four children,” Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said.

From an early age, she saw her parents cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the family while working full-time — without reference to gender.

“As I look back, it was unusual at that time. This helped me see parenting as a partnership and know that I could have a career and still have a wonderful, fulfilling family experience,” Carlson added.
DCM Variava felt the same, saying she feels lucky to have parents who are “both empowered and protective.”

These experiences have helped in shaping them as future leaders.

“I suppose, as the oldest of four siblings, I was kind of born into a familial leadership role,” Carlson said.

The US envoy remembers being very motivated in combating injustices and promoting fairness and equal opportunity, such that she stood up to neighborhood bullies and grownups on several occasions to call out unfairness.

“That led me to serve on what was back then called the biracial council — an early precursor (50 years ago!) to what we would now call a council on diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility. Those same issues motivate me to this day,” Carlson said.

Variava, meanwhile, was inspired by Geraldine Ferraro’s run as Vice President of the United States in 1984, the first time a woman was a candidate for the office of one of the two major US political parties.

“Time featured her on the cover of their magazine. Seeing Geraldine Ferraro on the cover as one of the top leaders in the United States made a deep impression on me. Even though she didn’t win and it was many years before Vice President Harris would achieve that office, it was one of the first times I saw someone like me, a female, in that role,” Variava said.

Variava believes that young people, especially women and girls, should speak up more.

“As women and girls, especially when I was younger, it was expected that we should keep quiet and get our jobs done. I believe younger people should listen to and respect older people who have experience, but young people, especially women and girls, should also speak up and share their ideas and perspectives,” Variava said.

Together with Carlson, Variava promises to promote opportunities for women and girls.

“Even though we have made great strides over the past years, there is still much more we need to do,” Carlson said.

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