Gender equality is essential to achieve inclusive and sustainable development. Women and men play important roles in society. Thus, both should have the same access to education, health, and other social services; can freely participate in the political processes; and have equal economic opportunities.

In the 2016 Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, the Philippines again joins the top 10 countries that have managed to reduce gender-based disparities in the economic, education, health, and political aspects. Ranking seventh among 144 countries, it maintains the position of highest performer in East Asia and the Pacific. The 2016 report reveals that since 2006, “the Philippines has fully closed its gender gap on the health and survival sub-index and has also managed to fully reclose its educational attainment gender gap after a reopening for the first time in 2015.” For 2016, however, the Philippines obtains a lower score in the economic participation and opportunity sub-index given its fewer female legislators and senior officials and managers.

A closer look, however, would reveal that critical issues remain. Maternal health remains a challenge in the Philippines as revealed by its accomplishment in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The Philippine Statistics Authority’s MDGWatch report in September 2015 reveals that the country fell short in reducing maternal mortality, providing universal access to reproductive health, and reducing adolescent pregnancies. PIDS research has found evidence of inequality in maternal and child health services utilization across economic classes and across regions, which requires government intervention. Moreover, gender issues are prevalent among certain marginalized sectors such as persons with disabilities (PWDs). Data show that among them, more women are unable to complete any grade in school, and the disparity is wider in the rural areas. Women PWDs are also left out in terms of employment.

Furthermore, while the Philippines has the second highest percentage of entrepreneurially active females next to Peru, based on data from the Department of Trade and Industry, the vast majority of enterprises owned by Filipino women are small and informal. Most of these enterprises are also engaged in low value-added activities like retail trade, food stalls, and personal services. Women in the informal economy and those operating micro and small enterprises usually have limited access to financial services, production networks,  marketing information, and global value chains. These limit their socioeconomic advancement and full participation in the development process.