MCW for a More-Caring-for-Women Workplace!

It took seven years of legislative debates for it to flap its wings and fly high! The Magna Carta of Women (MCW) started its evolution during the 12th Congress in 2002. After going through numerous debates and discussions, it was finally signed into law in 2009.

Eight years after life was breathed into this law, how far has it soared? How much ground has its wings covered as it journeyed through the years?

Before the passage of this law, reports on women violation has thrived our statistical charts, but only a few of these violations reached the complaints’ desks. In the past, women seemed to have endured the various forms of violations and discrimination done on them. This is highly attributed to their fears, which are largely rooted to lack of knowledge, or perhaps even ignorance of their rights.

The big challenge that a nation faces when a new law is passed is its dissemination, especially when the application of the law is universal. It does not seem to reach a wide coverage, specifically in far-flung areas where forms of communication is limited.

Research on MCW Implementation

In September 2014, a research was conducted on the awareness and implementation of MCW in the country. The research was a collaborative effort between and among the Philippine affiliates of Education International (EI) as part of the ASEAN Women’s Network. The research was conducted under the espousal of Lärarförbundet (Swedish Teachers Union), a development partner of the teachers’ organizations in the country.

At present, there are four teachers’ federations in the country, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Teachers Organization in Philippine Public Schools (TOPPS) and Samahang Manggagawang Pilipino – National Alliance of Teachers and Office Workers (SMP-NATOW); all of which are committed to the advocacy of advancing the cause of women teachers through unionism and policy recommendations.

The said research yielded an output that the rights and empowerment of women were not fully implemented, which further implied that the rights are not well exercised, protected and observed.

Series of MCW fora

The research output served as the springboard for SMP-NATOW to conduct a series of MCW fora with the aim of increasing the awareness on the MCW provisions. SMP-NATOW also crafted and published an MCW Booklet, copies of which were distributed to the different federations and were given to their respective affiliates to widen the dissemination of the law.

As the federation continued to hold MCW fora, reports on best practices from the different participating schools have increased.

Child care facilities and breastfeeding rooms have been provided in some workplaces. Flexible time and schedules were granted to pregnant and nursing mothers in addition to provisions that pregnant women are not given night shifts of work.

The special leave for women with gynecological problems is recognized and is already enshrined in most of the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) of the unions.

Participants of the MCW Forum held in December 2016 in Baguio City, agreed and concluded that with the conduct of the forum, teachers are made more conscious of their duty of continuously integrating reproductive, health and gender sensitivity issues in their classroom lectures and learning episodes.

While there are best practices already in place in the workplaces, as previously mentioned, the fora also served as an avenue for the federation to collate reported violations as cited by the participants.

Among the reported violations on the MCW provisions, the problem on the inconsistency of the application of the provision on the special leave surfaced as the most common one. This observation was affirmed by the reports that were shared by the participants of the MCW Forum in July 2017 held in Iloilo City. Some organizations required their female workers who underwent gynecological operations to use their sick leave before enjoying their special leave. In some organizations the compensation for the special leave was based on the net pay of the worker instead of the gross pay, as mandated by the law.

With most of the institutions providing child care facilities and breastfeeding areas in their workplaces, problem still exists on the adequacy of the facilities. This was mentioned by the participants of the MCW Forum held last November 2016 in Davao City.

Gender Sensitivity and Equality

The conduct of gender sensitivity trainings have also been made as an integral part of the union’s annual program of activities. These efforts had strengthened the need for an allocation for gender and development (GAD) budget.

Due to the importance of looking into the welfare of women workers, trade unions have also created women’s committees in their respective organizations and have also increased women participation in the leadership.

In SMP-NATOW, the National Executive Board advised the affiliates and charters to beef up women roles in the union leadership

As the federation continues its drive of intensifying the level of awareness and increasing the extent of implementation of the MCW provisions, bits of accomplishment are gradually achieved. As we go from one forum to another, we get to hear best practices happening in other places too. While it is true that we still get some reports of violation, here and then, those are also considered part of the milestones. We believe that when there are reported violations, workers are more vigilant of their rights, more protective because violations are reported only when the observance of the rights are closely monitored.

The federation stays committed, with ardor and resilience, to its advocacy on the widespread dissemination and full implementation of the law, for an MCW workplace, a More Caring for Women workplace!

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