Women lawmakers were at the helm during yesterday's session at the House of Representatives as part of the chamber's activities to celebrate Women's Month.
Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia presided as Speaker while some of her female colleagues took key posts in the all-women session that tackled legislation on women's welfare and health.
“We hope to create a wave of awareness as we promote gender equality and empowerment of today's women,” Agusan del Norte Rep. Ma. Angelica Amante-Matba, who acted as majority leader, said in a statement.
There are 62 female House members.
The session was opened by Deputy Speaker and Zamboanga City Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco at 4 p.m. and announced that De Venecia, also president of the Association of Lady Legislators, was “Speaker for the Day.”
De Venecia is the wife of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.
Sitting as deputy speakers were Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, and Nueva Ecija Rep. Josefina Joson.
Designated as House minority leader was Lanao del Norte Rep. Fatima Aliah Dimaporo.
Pampanga Rep. Anna York Bondoc was scheduled to deliver her sponsorship speech on her breastfeeding measure last night.
Other activities have also been lined up in the chamber with other women's organizations under the theme “Empowering women through legislation and the arts: Envisioning to achieve millennium development goals.”
Amante-Matba, chairperson of the House committee on women and gender equality, said the celebration is anchored on the importance of the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710.
The flag ceremony marked the formal launching of the event and had singer Cookie Chua and Tahanang Walang Hagdanan Dancers on Wheels as guest performers.
The Gabriela Women's Party (GWP) and the Center for Women's Resources held a forum on the Filipino women's situation at the Mitra Building while an arts and photo exhibit was opened at the south wing lobby sponsored by the female legislators.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman addressed and actively participated in the Forum on the Program of Involvement of Male Legislators in Eliminating Violence Against Women (EVAW) held at the Rolando Andaya Hall.
Belmonte cited the various social achievements in the nation's history that were triggered by women like former President Corazon Aquino.
“To this list, I add my own wife, Betty Go-Belmonte, who together with Eggie (Eugenia) Apostol, nurtured the vision of a free press not only as a showcase of democracy but more so as a guarantee against the return of authoritarianism,” Belmonte said.
He said the House is currently deliberating on bills aimed at addressing gender-related problems, including the Reproductive Health Bill, the Basic Health Services Act, Literacy Programs for Expectant Parents Act, and the removal of night work prohibition on women engaged in certain industries.
“This Congress will heed the wisdom of our women, and continue to recognize their invaluable support in the difficult task of nation-building,” Belmonte said.
Representatives from Men Opposed to Violence Against Women Everywhere (MOVE), GWP, Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) and the House Committee on Population & Family Relations (CPFR) also participated in the forum.
A nurses forum on volunteerism was held at the minority conference room, at the House north wing led by the GWP last March 2.
“We deem it important for the House of Representatives to know the situation of women, especially those from the grassroots. Our work as legislators impact greatly on women,” GWP party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said.
“The weeklong commemoration of Women's Month at the House of Representatives is a venue to instill awareness on women's rights. We are hopeful that this will usher the enactment of legislation that will help uplift the rights and welfare of women and their families, especially those from the poorest communities,” Ilagan said.
A discussion on the Paralegal Training and Understanding under Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women & Their Children Act of 2004, also sponsored by the GWP, was held at the Mitra Building last March 10.
Furthermore, a public hearing on anti-violence against women and children and Magna Carta of Women will be held at Cebu Normal University on March 17 and 18. The participants are the Male Legislators in Eliminating Violence Against Women with the PLCPD, the House CPFR, MOVE, GWP and Oversight on Implementation of Women Laws.
Herrera-Dy will conduct a medical mission at Barangay Batasan Hills on March 21. Skills livelihood training on water lily baskets and slipper making for indigent women of Barangay Batasan will also be held at the south wing lobby.
A dialogue with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman on the conditional cash transfer program will be held on March 22 at the Mitra Building and a recollection and retreat with Archbishop Socrates Villegas on March 23, at Rolando Andaya Hall.
On March 28, the National Council on Disability Affairs will conduct a forum on entrepreneurship while TESDA representatives will hold basic training on jewelry making, cake decoration, flower arrangement and bartending at the House. The other participants are the Philippine Commission on Women, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Trade and Industry, DSWD and some non-governmental organizations.