“I never once thought that my sex or my gender would be a hindrance,” Senator Risa Hontiveros, a health and women’s rights advocate, told Cosmopolitan Philippines during a recent interview with Summit Media journalists.
According to Senator Risa, she was very shy as a child, and that she grew up in a family of very strong women. “[I had] very loud-voiced cousins, who never intimidated me from speaking when I wanted to, and who listened, and who gave weight also to what I would be sharing in our family reunions. So I grew up, though a shy young person, knowing that I, too, had a space. My voice had a space. I, too, had a right, and sometimes a responsibility, to speak up whatever I was thinking or feeling. And yung mga sumunod na series of happy accidents strengthened my resolve to be a lifelong activist.” Before becoming a senator, she was also a student leader, a peace advocate, and a journalist.
Risa Hontiveros on *claiming our space* as women
Cosmo asked Senator Risa for her advice for young women who would like to follow the same path as her. “Like many of my generation, I was also taught the traditional stereotypes as a young girl. Still, I saw it in my clan, still, I saw it in school, and later when I was starting to work. But I believe there were more influences in those circles that encouraged me to follow my bliss. I never once thought that my sex or my gender would be a hindrance,” Senator Risa shares.
“Every time we claim our space, every time we project our voice as women, wherever you want to be—in spite of some people probably telling you, or telling me then, that I don’t belong there—when we still do that, we are creating [and] we are holding space for other women.”
Aside from being a women’s rights advocate, Senator Risa also pushes for stronger gender rights for all. As a senator, she has passed the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Philippine Mental Health Law, and the Safe Spaces Act (also known as the Bawal Bastos Law).
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