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Women’s rights advocate challenges ‘lady’ stereotype


A lifelong gender and development advocate who visited the city last week is calling to end the stereotype that may raise some eyebrows especially in a generally conservative Filipino society.

Former Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) chairperson and women empowerment expert Remedios Rikken says it is high time that the “lady” concept be erased.

“Because you are a ‘lady’, society expects you to be ladylike,” she explains. In Filipino culture, a dalagang Pilipina is characterized by simple beauty, timidity, and submissiveness.

Rikken, who has been an active women’s advocate since the sixties and known nationwide for her piercing commentaries promotes the exact opposite of the dalaga stereotype. “I want women to react immediately!”

But the challenge, said Rikken is that societal norms even in this liberal age of information technology still maintain the stereotype. “How do you teach women to be assertive, when for example, priests tell brides to be ‘subject to your husbands,’ when the grooms are told only to ‘love your wife?’”

Rikken asserts that one of the reasons women are still abused is because they allow themselves to be.

“When a woman gets married, when she subjects herself to her husband, it does not necessarily mean that she should also surrender her dignity,” she said.

Some women, despite observing violent tendencies of boyfriends and would-be husbands early in the relationship would remain with their men “because of love,” Rikken shares. But the same men could become their tormentors for life. “Ikaw yung tanga! (you’re the fool),” she exclaimed.

According to latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), over 11,000 women, or 36.3 percent of those surveyed by the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) admitted to being victims of violence, which include physical, sexual and emotional at some point in their lives.

Although Rikken agrees that women empowerment has gone a long way, still injustices such as violence against women persist, which is the reason why she continues to reach out to women and men all over the country through her talks.

She suggests that gender and development seminars must keep talking to women, but also focus on talking with men too about the many issues that require intervention and change.

Last week, Rikken talked about “Deconstructing Masculinity and Femininity” to about 500 representatives from government and non-government organizations all over the region in a Gender and Development Summit (GAD) organized by the Regional GAD Council. (ALT/DIS/PIA9-Zamboanga City)

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