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Conversation with Deniece Cornejo on Gender Equality


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/12

Deniece Milinette Cornejo is the CEO at Demico Global Solutions, Chairman at the National Congress for Young Filipinos, National Project Director at Miss Tourism Philippines, Regional Development Council Chairman at Junior Chamber International Philippines, a Goodwill Ambassador, Senior Vice President for Southeast Asia at AI Trades, Ambassador at the International Martial Arts Academy, and President at Association of Women’s Rights Advocates.

Here we talk about gender equality within the Philippines.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start on some basics of the work on women’s rights, then move into more depth. When did women’s rights become a focus in life for you?

Deniece Cornejo: Women’s rights became an integral part of my being at a time when I found myself cornered into an unfavorable condition that dampened my spirit. I learned to thrive and transform this challenge into a motivation to champion women’s rights. It has since become my goal to educate more people and to further my reach in protecting the very core of women’s rights and welfare.

Jacobsen: Who stood out in Filipino/Filipina culture regarding women’s rights?

Cornejo: I am particularly inspired, supportive and proud of Philippine commission on women. It is an organization that sprung from the grassroots level and has since fought for the ideals of women empowerment. At a time when belief on a woman’s capacity is rarely part of the conversation, they were able to set the table and open the road for a meaningful dialogue on the importance of women’s rights. They also inspired me to establish my own humble organization as well, the Association of Women’s Rights and Advocates that seeks to bring awareness to the local communities.

Jacobsen: How was pre-colonial history for the equality of women?

Cornejo: As the world knows it, history was never on the side of women. Women were regarded as mere objects for the pleasure of men. They were also treated as the inferior counterpart, so much that their role in winning the war was never vindicated or given the recognition the women of yesterday rightly deserved. In the Americas, it took a massive campaign to allow women their right to suffrage. In Western Countries, women always needed their husband’s or father’s consent to access finances or open bank accounts. In Saudi Arabia, it was only recently that women were allowed to drive. It was a hard time for women but I am glad that the dark ages of our history are long gone. I am convinced that I owe it to all the women who came before me the freedom I am enjoying today.

Jacobsen: With colonialism, how did this change the dynamics and situation for the equality of women?

Cornejo: The Philippines were once colonized by the most powerful countries in the world. From the Spaniards to the Americans, their varying principles shaped the political and social alignment of our society when it comes to the notion of equality. The Spaniards taught our ancestors that men are the aggressive while women are ideally meek, quiet, poised and reserved which gave birth to the term, Dalagang Filipina. The Americans maintained a similar belief but introduced a somehow different image — that women can possess the same intellect and prowess that men do but still only to a limited extent. I am proud to witness the dynamics change since then. Not only Filipina women but more women across the globe are now also afforded the same rights as their male counterpart. However, there are still some issues that persist such as the gender pay gap. I believe an issue like this necessitates a more urgent and lengthy discussion.

Jacobsen: In the current context, the UNDP or the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index ranks the Philippines at 113th. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund or the IMF ranks the Philippines amongst the highest in the Global Gender Gap Index 2018 at number 8 in the entire world, the highest in the Asian region or SEA in particular. On the 2012 Global Equity Index, the Philippines ranks in the yellow or the upper ranges of the middle of the world alongside Bulgaria, Panama, Poland, and the U.K. with a score of 76 out of 100. How important is gender equality for more rapid social progress and economic development in the Philippines?

Cornejo: While I respect our old customs and traditions, I think we are now living in a time when men and women can stand on equal grounds. To ensure social progress, we must be forced to think, reconsider and reevaluate our pre-existing beliefs on a woman’s role in the society. I am inclined to believe that somehow, our old traditions are anchoring or weighing us down. In the context of economic development, it is the gender pay gap and the availability of jobs for women that needs to be tackled. We need to be more accepting of the idea that whatever it is that men do, women can do, too — whether to which extent or degree is open for a wider debate. There needs to a more open, less conservative and honest discussion on this issue.

Jacobsen: What seems like the important next steps for gender equality for the Philippines to learn from the West and the West to learn from the Philippines?

Cornejo: The Philippines can adapt or incorporate our Western neighbors’ more liberal thinking when it comes to dealing with issues such as political and economic equality of the sexes. We need their open attitude when it comes to freedom of expression. In turn, The West could learn a thing or two from our non-highly divisive approach to matters of importance. The Filipinos, no matter how divided we may be on some issues, we tend to find common ground and stand in unison.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Ms. Cornejo.

Cornejo: Thank you for your time and for your well-fleshed out questions as well. I believe this is an opportunity for a good start on initiating conversations about the basics of women’s rights.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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