In celebration of International Women’s Month, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in partnership with the Embassy of the United States in the Philippines, hosted the Mabini Dialogue entitled Diplomacy and Women Empowerment on 30 March 2023 at the Carlos P. Romulo Library, DFA Building, Pasay City.

The forum discussed the role of diplomats in promoting women’s agenda at the multilateral level, challenges faced by female diplomats caused by systemic gender biases, and the vital role that male allies play in supporting their female counterparts and breaking down gender barriers.

In his opening remarks, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique A. Manalo highlighted the various trailblazing women diplomats who championed women’s rights by establishing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other international efforts. He also stressed the DFA’s commitment to implementing inclusive and gender-responsive policies and programs at an institutional level.

The panel comprised seasoned diplomats who shared their insights on women empowerment in diplomacy.

H.E. MaryKay L. Carlson and FSI Director-General Ma. Teresita C. Daza discussing Women-Led Diplomacy

Ambassador MaryKay L. Carlson of the Embassy of the United States in the Philippines stressed in her speech the significance of woman-led diplomacy, which is not a competition between genders but rather an opportunity to provide the best kind of diplomacy that can lead to more creativity and efficiency. She also remarked that promoting gender parity and gender equity continue to face struggles. Ambassador Carlson expressed gratitude to her mentors, including men who encouraged her to pursue opportunities and helped broaden her horizons.

Director-General Ma. Teresita C. Daza of FSI, who also concurrently serves as DFA Spokesperson, provided a comprehensive look at the Philippines’ history as a champion of women empowerment both at the national and international levels. She also highlighted best practices and initiatives by the DFA and Philippine foreign service posts in promoting gender and development at home and abroad.

HE Juha Pyykkö discusses the importance of men’s involvement in gender issues

Ambassador Juha Pyykkö of the Embassy of Finland in the Philippines shared Finland’s experience with women in leadership positions. Although Finland is closer to achieving gender parity than most, he noted that challenges still exist. He stressed that maintaining gender equity requires continuous effort. Since gender equality is not just a woman’s issue but a universal human rights issue, it is important to involve men in the discussion to ensure that policies and programs take into account the needs and experiences of all genders.

During the open forum, the panelists discussed how the challenges to gender equality have evolved since they first began their careers in foreign service. They acknowledged that, while progress has been made, systemic issues still need to be addressed. There was also an agreement on the importance of including men in the conversation on women’s agenda, as they play a critical role in achieving and maintaining gender parity. They highlighted the need to view gender issues as cross-cutting in nature rather than in a vacuum and to move away from a narrow dichotomous perspective that wrongfully emphasizes competition over collaboration.

The speakers concluded the forum by encouraging aspiring diplomats to pursue their chosen careers bravely and boldly, turning their vulnerabilities into strengths and seizing every opportunity that comes their way.

Officers and staff of the DFA, foreign service posts, members of the diplomatic corps, other government agencies, media, and the academe attended the dialogue.

(Right to Left) Hon. Ma. Teresita C. Daza, Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute and DFA Spokesperson; Hon. Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary for Foreign Affairs; H.E. MaryKay L. Carlson, Ambassador of the US to the Philippines; HE Juha Pyykkö, Ambassador of Finland to the Philippines.