Power of the United Genders

By Natalie Kavanagh

Natalie is participating in the Gold  Global Citizen Award. This is the fourth of her Global Blogs from the Philippines 

The robust connection between all genders working together in the tribe has allowed them to develop and progress in ways never thought before.

It has been said countless times before that it is a man’s world. Before my visit to the Philippines I was convinced that this masochistic attitude is somewhat more pronounced in the developing countries. This may be the case in some developing countries. The media have us convinced that there is no room for women in education, work or even socialising. Nonetheless, this is not what I experienced whilst working alongside the Badjao tribe in Cebu City.

First of all, in the Nano Nagle kindergarten school the children are taught by three of the most inspirational female teachers, Annie, Edwina and Venerva. Venerva herself is one of the first Badjao women to have not only exceed high school but to graduate college with a degree! These women not only help prepare the children for their future and education allowing them to grow basic skills for development, but also play a major role in supporting the education of the whole Badjao tribe- from elementary children in their homework, to adults wanting to develop their literacy skills and much more. Meeting these women has truly been a blessing and it is clear through conversation with the Badjao people that they have made a vigorous impact, especially on the young girls.

Badjao boys and girls in elementary class

Badjao boys and girls in elementary class

There has always been the traditional male chieftain of the Badjao tribe which at the minute is the brilliant Felicito. However, over the past few years the women have gained the confidence to attain their own say in issues regarding the tribe. Therefore nowadays a major decision must not only pass through the chieftain but also the tribe’s own female Cluster Leaders. These women train in a number of skills-based courses including Leadership in order to aid the chief and the tribe in the overall running of the community. Being around these strong female characters only has a compelling impact on the young girls around them and also for the males in seeing what they can achieve if they all work together.

young Badjao boys helping to clean the school (Medium)

Young Badjao boys helping to clean the school

In 2000, prior to the MDG’s, a study on the enrolment of the sexes in education highlights that women enrolment in primary and secondary education is 10% lower than that of men. However this is contradicted within the tribe with just as many girls attending the kindergarten classes if not more, the same could even be said for the elementary school when we visited. Prior to the last few years the traditional role of the women was to get married and have children which would be considered in the Western World as at a young age. Here and now, many of the young girls in high school and college told us they will wait until they finish their education to get married and have children. This changing notion is such a promising one, permitting Badjao women and men to have an equal chance in Filipino society.

man holding his baby (Medium)

Father with his baby in Cebu, Philippines

Globally, gender issues are still so predominately driven by women because their participation in most areas has been unequal for so long that they are simply more motivated to be gender sensitive. However it is not only the girls which have surprised the stereotypical notion. Many of the males are stepping out of the traditional male role of being the main worker, immersing themselves in education, cleaning and helping out in the school alongside the females and taking part in caring for the children. This is changing as more men recognise both the value of paying attention to gender and equality, and the fact that it aids society. The united attitude of the tribe is being reflected in the younger generation who see each other as equals and work together to better their community.

Gender issues are still prevalent today in Western civilisation with gender equality being more crucial now than ever as we grapple to recover from the economic crisis.

The wonderful Badjao teachers and support officers

The wonderful Badjao teachers and support officers

The long-term benefits to society on both an ethical and economic level would be unparalleled with any of the short term costs that would come about from paying women the same wage. Statistics highlight that in Ireland, women continue to earn 12.6% less than men and are 18% more likely to work part-time and they still struggle to make it up the career ladder. That being said gender equality is not just about economic empowerment it is a moral imperative. Perhaps it is time that Ireland took a leaf out of the tribe’s book and began to progress to the future of united genders. The new SDGs which look specifically at gender equality globally as an agenda seems to be putting a foot in the right direction. It will be interesting to see what progress will be made in the world by 2030 if everyone caters towards the power of equality.