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DOST-CALABARZON celebrates Women’s Month through webinar series on gender empowerment

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IN celebration of the International Women’s Month this March, the Department of Science and Technology – CALABARZON (DOST-CALABARZON) opened up discussions on sex, gender, and development in forums facilitated online via Zoom and Facebook Live, last March 25, 29, and 30, 2022. The webinars raised awareness on gender-based discrimination, gender equality, and women empowerment, gathering around 300 virtual participants from all over the Philippines.

The three forums tackled: (1) Introduction to Gender and Development Concepts last 25 March 2022, with Prof. Jansen San Juan of the University of Rizal System ; (2) Introduction to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) last 29 March 2022, with Ms. Kristel May Gomez-Magdaraog of the University of the Philippines Diliman; and (3) “Empower the Women, Develop the Nation”: Supporting Women in Research last 30 March 2022, organized in partnership with other DOST South Luzon Regional Offices (NCR, MIMAROPA and Bicol) with keynote speaker Dr. Ofelia Samar-Sy, Director of the Bicol Consortium for Health Research and Development. 

Introduction to GAD Concepts and SOGIESC

Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) National GAD Resource Pool Members, Prof. San Juan and Ms. Gomez-Magdaraog, engaged participants in interactive discussions on GAD and SOGIESC, respectively. 

Prof. San Juan detailed GAD terminologies, such as “Gender Aware” that recognizes gender inequality between men and women and gender stereotypes—gathered through audience participation—that helped participants distinguish between sex roles and gender roles. He also discussed societal gender issues and GAD-related laws protecting women’s rights. Replay of the webinar is accessible via https://bit.ly/DOST4A-2022GAD-Live.

On the other hand, Ms. Gomez-Magdaraog presented the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, Asexual and Other Terms (LGBTIQA++) situation in conjuction to SOGIESC, and relevant policies on gender. She highlighted the case Republic of the Philippines vs. Cagandahan, among other cases, in which the Supreme Court recognized intersexuality, and ruled to “give respect to the diversity of nature; and how an individual deals with what nature has handed out.” Watch the replay of the webinar here: https://bit.ly/DOST4A-2022SOGIESC-Live

“Empower the Women, Develop the Nation”: Supporting Women in Research

The DOST South Luzon Cluster invited five women researchers to share their stories and experienced challenges as women in what is considered a “male-dominated field”, Research and Development (R&D). The four testimonial speakers were: (1) Dr. Marian De Leon, Director of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Museum of Natural History, representing women researchers in CALABARZON; (2) Dr. Katherine P. Sanchez-Escalona, Associate Professor in the Mindoro State University for MIMAROPA; (3) Dr. Marissa N. Estrella, Consortium Director of the Bicol Consortium for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development for Bicol Region; and Dr. Abigail Sid-Andress, Associate Professor in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Manila for NCR.

“Any man, woman, transgender—anyone—can do research,” Dr. Estrella remarked. While the four speakers acknowledged the apparent disadvantages against women in research, given the societal perception that women are physically “weak” to undertake research endeavors, the rising number of successful women researchers prove otherwise. Dr. Sanchez-Escalona invited participants to “stand up against sexism,” while Dr. Sid-Andress motivated women researchers to not give up—“‘Wag susuko”. Dr. De Leon, as Program Leader of the DOST-funded Cave Ecosystems Research, noted “Ang pag-aaral sa loob ng isang kuweba ay hindi lamang trabaho na nalilimita sa iisang kasarian, kundi maaari ring pamunuan ng isang babae.”

Keynote speaker, Dr. Samar-Sy, in her empowering talk on “Mainstreaming Gender in Research” showcased ten (10) game-changing women scientists in the Philippines. She said, “Kung ang nanay ang ilaw ng tahanan; and mga researchers ang ilaw ng agham,” wrapping up her discussion with a study that claimed women as effective leaders, especially during crisis. In a brief sharing of her journey as a woman in science—as a medical doctor, COVID frontliner, and researcher—she bared the challenges she experienced, and how she overcame them through the support of her family and fellow women.

During the open forum, the invited speakers encouraged more women participation in R&D. Besides the difficulties in juggling family duties and career, actually starting their research is the most challenging. Dr. Samar-Sy said, “Mag-start lang kayo sa isa, ‘di n’yo alam magiging sampu na, magiging twenty na.” Dr. De Leon and Dr. Estrella supported this and added that the DOST has sectoral councils and programs that help researchers establish linkages for collaboration, and fund their studies, mentioning in particular the Science for Change Program (https://s4cp.dost.gov.ph/).| –  Krizzia Mei C. Esperanza / BNN

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