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Germany’s Feminist Foreign Policy Strengthens Women’s Rights in Foreign Relations and Beyond

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As International Women’s Month concludes, the German Embassy in Manila bares initiatives to protect and celebrate the rights of women and girls. This month, Germany launched its Feministische Außenpolitik or Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP). The move is slated to strengthen the rights, resources, and representation of women and girls worldwide while promoting social diversity through foreign policy.

“The FFP is an approach that runs as a thread through all aspects of foreign policy,” said German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel. “All employees of the Federal Foreign Office at home and abroad are motivated to actively adhere and make themselves part of it. In conference and delegation programs, our project and media work as well as in all other events and activities, care is taken to adequately include women and members of marginalized groups and their respective concerns. This is what we call the feminist reflex.”

The 14 Women Ambassadors from different embassies who are currently posted in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of the Embassy of the United States in the Philippines

An FFP Ambassador will be appointed along with designated contact persons in embassies. They will be responsible for consistently promoting the policy and helping it go mainstream. Amb. Reiffenstuel shared that it is also a priority of the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) to make sure that women are able to benefit from project funds to the same extent as men. Gender budgeting for all project funds will be applied by 2025, meaning that 85 % of all projects need to be gender sensitive and 8% gender transformative.

Photo credit: Embassy of the United States in the Philippines
“The FFP is a way to maximize the potential of our existing toolbox, without blind spots in our optics,” she added.

Gender Champion

At the beginning of 2023, it was announced that German Amb. Reiffenstuel is the new EU Gender Champion. The role gives her the unique responsibility of advocating for the EU Gender Equality Action Plan.

The announcement was followed by the publishing of an opinion piece in one of the country’s major broadsheets where the Ambassador talked about teenage pregnancy in the Philippines – one of the most pressing issues when it comes to women’s rights and reproductive healthy – and how it affects opportunities available to girls when it comes to education and economic advancement.

Titled Let’s Talk About Sex, the Ambassador highlighted the alarming numbers of teenage pregnancies in the country. While children are a blessing, she pressed for the importance of the right of young women and girls to self-determination and education in order to make informed decisions about their future.

Blessed with three children herself, she added that “pregnancy should be an educated and informed choice – not forced upon, destroying dreams and futures of teenage girls in the Philippines.”

The piece also brings into focus Germany’s commitments to the Philippines within the fields of sexual and reproductive health, as well as advocating for intersectional gender equality.

“This women’s month was especially important for me as German Ambassador, since Germany did not only publish its guidelines on Feminist Foreign Policy, but I also have the honor to be the 2023 EU Gender Champion, shedding light on what the EU and its Member States do to promote women empowerment and Gender Equality in the Philippines,” Amb. Reiffenstuel shared.

EU Ambassador Luc Veron and German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel.

Part of her duties as EU Gender Champion brought Amb. Reiffenstuel to an EU-funded Youth Activity Center in Pasay, focusing on ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Children and Young People’.

Together with EU Ambassador Luc Veron, the two envoys learned about the offered services ranging from family planning counseling, provision of free contraceptives, to free HIV counseling and screening provided by Community and Family Services International (CFSI) and Medecins du Monde France. The EU has provided the center with 500 thousand Euros in funding.

They also visited the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health in Malabon. Here, Ambassadors Reiffenstuel and Veron witnessed the signing ceremony to formalize a cooperation agreement between Likhaan and local youth organization, Tinig ng Kabataan (TINK).

Amb. Reiffenstuel also lent her support to several events organized by other embassies and institutions as EU Gender Champion. From the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ #MakePHSchoolsInclusive at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina College, The Philippine Commission on Women and UN Women’s IWD Celebration, the Belgian Embassy’s #BEHerAlly campaign, and the Management Association of the Philippines’ (MAP) Annual General Meeting with a discussion on women empowerment.

“I had the opportunity to participate in an event to discuss, together with my ambassador counterparts from the US and the UK, about gender equity needs, the significance of education, and the importance of allies, to just name a few,” Amb. Reiffenstuel shared about the MAP event.

At the Kapihan ng mga Peminista 2023 organized by the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, Amb. Reiffenstuel was part of a panel which featured officials from Likhaan, German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Commission on Human Rights, and women empowerment advocates.

With the GIZ and the UP Diliman Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the embassy co-organized a free advocacy concert in honor of Women’s Month on the 24th of March. The concert, entitled “Mga Awit, Tula, at Kwento ni Dakila” was held at Gyud Food, UP Diliman and featured established musical acts like HEY JUNE!, syd hartha, Munimuni, and Talata alongside spoken word poetry artists Beverly CuMLA, Hannah Pabilonia, and Anthonio Bathan.

And again, with the GIZ, the ambassador pushed for the advocacy of women’s sexual and reproductive health through a video campaign filmed with GIZ Goodwill Ambassador for Menstrual Health and Hygiene in the Philippines and Miss Eco International 2022 Kathleen Paton.

“Menstruating girls are still confronted with a lot of taboos here in the Philippines with stigma and embarrassment. Insufficient access to basic services like water or sanitation and hygiene makes it difficult for them to properly manage menstruation,” Amb. Reiffenstuel said.

“The ability to manage menstruation in schools has been shown to have a positive impact on the education of girls in terms of reducing absenteeism and increasing participation in turn allowing them to reach their full potential. The Philippines has done great in recent years to advance access to female-friendly toilets at schools, serving as the best model for other countries in the region.” She added that it is imperative to empower women at a young age to help achieve gender equality. This entails paying attention and addressing the needs of girls and women, especially at a young age.

Together Towards a Feminist Future

“Germany and the Philippines are allies in the promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. Feminist foreign policy is inclusive, not directed against men,” Amb. Reiffenstuel said. “We do not want to lecture anyone. We are aware that Germany also has some catching up to do – for example, in the equal representation of women in parliament.”

As of 2022, 49.8 % of staff at the GFFO are women. 39.1 % are in higher grades of the civil service at the GFFO while 28.7 % are in leading management functions. By the end of 2022, Germany was represented abroad by 36 women ambassadors, 14 women consuls general, and three women honorary consuls.
To move forward and improve the standing of women in society, Amb. Reiffenstuel said that Germany seeks dialogue at eye level with other states and civil societies. “In everything we do, every project or event, we have to ensure that women and their concerns are adequately reflected and represented.”

She added that political commitments must also translate to reality. “Both Germany and the Philippines committed themselves to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda of the UN, which underlines that women have a crucial role in making conflict solution and peace processes sustainable and successful,” she said. “Together, we have to make sure that this fact is reflected in the efforts in the Peace Process in the BARMM.”

German-funded projects are making headway toward such goals. Women Engaged in Responsive Solutions to Conflicts and Violence in Mindanao (WE RESOLVE) implemented by Relief International in cooperation with Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) is helping 40 women leaders in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao gain more active roles in peacebuilding.

Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy (PAP) implemented by Plan International Philippines was also active in five municipalities in Northern and Western Samar, aiming to decrease the incidents of unplanned pregnancies among adolescent girls. Over a hundred youth peer educators were trained on sexual and reproductive health and rights to provide peer support. As a result, cases of adolescent pregnancies in their communities have declined by 18%.
While the fight for gender equality remains to be a long and uphill struggle, Germany affirms that it will be a strong ally to the Philippines in every step of the way.

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