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Passion to serve: Women’s participation in local politics

Passion to serve: Women’s participation in local politics

The continuing struggle of women to enter local politics has been very evident through the years. Let’s take a glimpse at what women in barangay politics do and what challenges they encounter. 

Aligned with their advocacy for women’s empowerment, faculty members of Community Development from the Division of Social Sciences, Prof. Josephine Firmase and Prof. Alice Prieto-Carolino conducted a study highlighting women’s voices and contributions in local politics, an arena which is often associated with men.

In their paper titled “Women’s Participation in Barangay Politics: A View from the Ground”, sixty-nine (69) women barangay officials from 10 barangays of the municipalities of Guimbal and Tigbauan were surveyed and 10 focus group discussions were held. Guimbal and Tigbauan were the top two coastal municipalities in the first district of Iloilo Province with the greatest number of women barangay elective officials based on the 2007 and 2010 barangay elections. The study reveals that normative frameworks limited women’s participation in barangay politics.  These are the dominance of patriarchy, the persistence of discriminatory social norms, gender stereotypes, beliefs, and attitudes; the pervasiveness of the anomalous public and private divide; and intersections of gender, class, and ethnicity which compound the unequal power relations of men and women. In order for them to be in the local political scene, they need to have family connections as well as current or previous community engagements.

However, multiple gender roles within and outside their homes affect their political participation. Greater social and family responsibilities, which ironically are the source of their political influence, hinder their political participation. The increasing number of women in local politics alone is not enough to make a dent in the political structures and processes since they also need to be gender sensitized to enable them to use their power to push for pro-women local policies and programs.

Therefore, there is a need to affirm women’s contributions to encourage them to contest further the traditional gender division of labor where women are expected to stay at home and do household chores. This study further reveals that women can significantly contribute to the development of communities if given the opportunity. Hence, institutionalizing the capacity-building of women is imperative to contest structural and social limitations to their meaningful and transformative political participation. 

What now? Women do play significant roles in local politics. However, gender equality is still a work in progress in that field. More research studies like this should be done in order further to highlight the active and meaningful participation of women and inspire them to pursue careers in local politics.

You can access their article at the Philippine Journal on Social Sciences and Humanities: https://pjssh.upv.edu.ph/womens-participation-in-barangay-politics-a-view-from-the-ground/