Australian Embassy celebrates International Women’s Month
Australia has joined the Philippines in celebrating International Women’s Month during March 2012.
“It is encouraging to see women all over the world are increasingly empowered in so many aspects of their lives – career, family, health and education. The situation for women has improved over recent years, though there is still work to be done”, The Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Bill Tweddell, said. “As is widely recognised, there is no factor more important for the development of a country than the empowerment of its women and girls,” he added.
The Ambassador noted that “Actively supporting women’s full participation in economic, social and political life is essential for economic growth, good governance, reducing poverty, and meeting all the Millennium Development Goal targets. The Australian Government is proud to support Filipino women, not just in women’s month but throughout the year. We do this through a range of activities that empower women, strengthen women leaders and allow their voices to be heard.”
This year, and in line with the Philippine Commission on Women’s theme for this year’s Women’s Month – Women Weathering Climate Change: Governance and Accountability, Everyone’s Responsibility – the Australian Embassy is hosting a forum, in partnership with Oxfam, on the transformative leadership role of women during disaster response and rebuilding efforts.
The forum aims to highlight Australia’s ongoing assistance to Filipino women. Another Australian-assisted program in Mindanao that helps improve local road infrastructure has also tapped village-based women’s groups to maintain and rehabilitate their roads. Around 300 women in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, work with their respective barangays on this program. The women look forward to improved access roads that guarantee all-weather access and cut transport costs, especially during harvest time.
In the last seven years, the Australian Embassy, through its Direct Aid Program (DAP), has provided Php7 million to 29 projects directly benefitting women. The program provided livelihood opportunities and training assistance to women across the Philippines, from the women potters in Sagada to the traditional weavers of South Cotabato. DAP also supports projects that help protect women from abuse. It assisted the National Council of Women in the Philippines produce literature to help prevent violence against women, and the Hospicio de San Jose to build a sanctuary for abused and disadvantaged women.
Australia is also supporting women’s essential role as peace-builders in communities torn by conflict, seeking to foster a stable and secure environment for the equitable development of all. Australia supports the work of the Mindanao Commission on Women which has formed more than 60 youth peace circles where young women meet and work towards integrating peace objectives in school and local policies.
The Australian Government’s scholarship program provides opportunities to Filipino women to excel academically and in their professions. For example, Nastassja Ramos, a woman with a disability, is currently at Monash University in Melbourne studying for a double masters’ degree in Journalism and International Relations. She said, “My personal research points me to Australia as the best in first world education. There I can hone my skills as a journalist, and develop other skills necessary for me to fulfil my dream of helping the ‘differently-abled’ in our midst.”
Australia is a long-standing development partner of the Philippines and the country’s largest bilateral grant aid donor. In the current financial year, Australia will provide over Php5 billion in development assistance to the Philippines, focusing on economic growth, basic education, and national stability and human security.