Australia boosts investment for women’s economic empowerment in the Philippines

L-R: Australian Embassy in the Philippines Deputy Head of Mission Dr Moya Collett, Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Investing in Women CEO Hannah Birdsey, Co-founder and CEO of Villgro Philippines Priya Thachadi, Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Erika Geronimo

Makati City, Philippines – The Australian Government launched the new phase of its Investing in Women program in the Philippines together with gender equality advocates from the Philippine government, private sector and civil society.

Investing in Women is a multi-country initiative of the Australian Government that seeks to: accelerate women’s economic empowerment by promoting workplace gender equality; enable policy reforms that promote women’s economic participation; support locally driven campaigns that promote gender equality; and invest in women-owned and led businesses.

“When it comes to gender equality, the Philippines has long been a leader. But challenges remain, especially in women’s economic empowerment,” Australian Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Dr Moya Collett said.

“Ensuring women have opportunities to engage equitably in the workforce provides great economic and social dividends. According to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company, advancing gender equality in the Philippines, across all socio-economic groups, could see annual GDP grow by up to 7%,” she added. “The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is to invest in women to accelerate progress. This is the mission of Investing in Women: to support the

women’s economic empowerment in order to unlock great potential for inclusive economic growth.”

The new phase of Investing in Women will build on the results, partnerships, learnings, and credibility that were established in the first seven years of the program. It will also strengthen the evidence base and drive collective action to inform policy reform that supports women’s equal economic participation, particularly related to care work. In the Philippines and across the world, women continue to take on the majority of care responsibilities, which limits their capacity for productive work and self-development.

Dr Collett also announced Investing in Women’s new partnerships with Australian National University’s Global Institute for Women’s LeadershipOxfam Pilipinas, and Good Return. Specifically, the Australian Government will work alongside the Australian National University’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership to embed world-class research and evidence into all initiatives supported through Investing in Women. Further, Australia will work with Oxfam Pilipinas and Good Return to strengthen locally driven campaigns for gender equality.

On behalf of the Philippine Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar conveyed her message of support: “Let us reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and women empowerment. We are one with other duty bearers in working for a society where investing in women is not just a choice, but a mission. Together, let us work tirelessly to build a future where every woman has the opportunity to succeed”, she said.

In its first seven years, Investing in Women has invested PhP 199.51 million in 34 women-led and owned small and medium enterprises, mobilised PhP 624.89 mllion in private investment, and established the Philippine Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment.

These women-led and owned businesses have provided training to over 300 female smallholder farmers, around 3,000 female agri-distributers, and 557 female teachers. Some of these businesses, such as 1Export and Taxumo, were recognized as among the top Philippine startups during Philippine Startup Week 2023.

The Philippine Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment is made up of large businesses which have committed to improve gender equality in their own workplaces and influence other large businesses to become better employers of women. In 2022, seven member companies including DDB Philippines and InsularLife were awarded at the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles Awards. Five member companies were recognised for their workplace gender equality initiatives at the national and regional level in 2023, including Meralco, which is the first and only utility company in the Philippines to be listed in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index.

Investing in Women will continue its ongoing partnerships with local actors such as the Manila Angel Investors NetworkinBEST Ventures, and Foundation for a Sustainable Society which share Australia’s commitment to breaking down barriers to women’s economic empowerment.