Out of the 24 senators of the Philippines, how many can the Filipino people truly look up to or idolize? For me, Senator Risa Hontiveros is of the few senators who can genuinely be considered as a hero. Through her heartfelt remarks and implementations of advocacy-based platforms, she has not only proved herself to be a woman for others, but also embodies the essence of what it is to be a truly empowered woman.
Although I was definitely honored to have been given the opportunity to interview such an esteemed woman, I initially had my apprehensions. As this was the first time I was being given the chance to meet such a high ranking government official, I did not know what to expect. However, I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about, because Senator Risa Hontiveros welcomed us with open arms, and set aside time to see us despite her hectic schedule. By treating us with hospitality and warmth throughout our visit, she genuinely displayed her tendency to be a motherly person towards everyone she meets.
We commenced the interview by first enquiring about her general background and history with Philippine politics. Calling herself an “activist for life”, Hontiveros started to get engaged in activism even during her high school and college years. Even at such a young age, she was already aware of her own potential as a woman, to contribute to society.
She entered into politics when Akbayan, the democratic socialist political party that she was part of, asked her to serve as its congressional nominee. After serving as a congresswoman for 6 years, she ran for position in the senate, in the hopes that it would provide her with a larger platform and a longer term. She ran for senator twice, in 2010 and 2013, but failed both times. However, being the determined person that she is, Hontiveros ran for senate again in 2016, and won. Through this, she exhibited confidence in her own ability to effect positive change in society, as well as the courage to take risks as a woman in a male-dominated field.
Upon asked about her advocacies, Senator Hontiveros stated that her passion for women empowerment and gender equality is the essence of her entire platform, for the simple reason that it is a matter extremely close to her heart. She emphasized that she was born a woman, she has three daughters, and has numerous peers and colleagues who are women. She has personally experienced and seen firsthand the challenges that women in this society go through; for this reason, she purposely fought for the chance to be in charge of the committee dedicated to women, children, family relations, and gender equality. Because of this, I believe that she is living proof that being passionate about what you do does translate into more meaningful and impactful results. Thus, after proving herself as an empowered woman and winning a seat on the senate, she then proceeded to utilize her position in order to further empower other women.
With a campaign promise that puts its primary emphasis on health and women, Senator Risa Hontiveros has proposed bills such as the expansion of maternity leave, anti-discrimination, and mental health. Expressing that she is full of aspirations regarding policies to propose, Hotiveros said that one of the challenges that her committee faces is the process of translating these bills into laws. Bills for universal healthcare, women’s rights, and gender equality, had to undergo a lengthy procedure of being approved, because these are not the main priority of the government. For instance, the Anti-discrimination, which has been deliberated on for a year, is only currently in the process of being passed. Despite this, she still continued to persevere, because the aforementioned issues are causes that she truly feels strongly about.
Although Hontiveros stated that she is subjected to the same load of work as every other senator, an extra obstacle is posed by her being in opposition of the current administration. Every once in a while, she is asked questions about extrajudicial killings, women’s rights, or catcalling. Even though there are a lot of people who may openly disagree with her, she is never hesitant to publicly express her opinions on these topics. By doing this, she shows that she does not let herself be swayed by the majority, no matter how dominant or influential these opposing forces might be.
While admitting that dealing with an insensitive and misogynistic president can be frustrating, Hontiveros says that it takes great patience and perseverance. By persistently speaking out against President Duterte, she is exercising her right to freedom of speech as a woman, and empowering women all over the country by inspiring them to speak their minds as well. As a self-assured woman, Hontiveros does not allow any external factors to hinder her from standing up for what she believes is right.
Overall, our interview with Senator Risa Hontiveros was both enlightening and inspiring. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn firsthand about her background, advocacies, and projects, but I also has the chance to look deeper into her answers, in order to discern what makes her such an empowered woman and politician.
In my opinion, she sets an ideal example to women all over the Philippines. She conveys the message to Filipinos that women are very capable of attaining utmost success in any field. She prompts women to realize that they should be confident in their own abilities, and should not be fearful of taking risks, or taking action towards making a contribution in society. As a strong and independent woman, she is also not afraid to take a stand and fight for the rights of women, children, and Filipinos in general. She is one politician who has truly devoted her life to serving and empowering others. After listening to her speak, I can positively say that she is now one of the Filipino women that I look up to. She has inspired me to be more confident in my own capabilities, stand up for my own rights as a woman, and make an effort to empower those around me. As I go through my life, I wish to one day become just as dedicated, bold, and empowered, as Senator Risa Hontiveros is.