By Rowena Diocton

Wala ka pang boyfriend? (You don’t have a boyfriend yet?)” and “Kailan ka magpapakasal? (When are you getting married?)” are only two of the typical questions Filipino women are asked during family reunions. Because of this, many Filipinas dread going to reunions or reading their aunts’ comments on social media.

Despite the hype on women’s empowerment, some Filipinas stay bound to self-limiting beliefs, such as that women should scramble to get married and have children. Their dreams are limited to boxes in the spectrum of “child rearing,” “budgeting,” and “housekeeping.”

They are also expected to marry earlier than men. On average, most Filipino women get married at 24, while men get married at 27, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index 2015. The report also reveals that five out of 100 women (5%) marry between 15 and 19 years of age.

Even societies abroad generally view Filipino women with less regard than they’re worth. “Dating,” “marriage,” and “scandals” are only a few of the top results when you type “Filipina,” “Filipino woman,” or “Pinay” on a quick Google search. It seems the world seeks Filipinas either to marry or to spend a good time with. Somehow, their other contributions to the world are buried.

It’s already 2017, so why are a number of Filipinas still stuck in this outdated box? Here are four ways to step up and join the ranks of the 21st-century Filipina superwomen this year.

Be Part of Positive Social Change

If Concepcion Felix-Calderon and Pura Villanueva Kalaw of Asociacion Femenista Filipina had sat idly by during the first half of the 20th century, Filipino women wouldn’t be enjoying the right to vote that we do today. We need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. So ask yourself:  What can I offer to society to make it more just?

Rethink the Way You Treat Your Body

In Asia, social and economic growth has sadly coincided with the rise of eating disorders. Access to social media sites has allowed real-time body-shaming comments against celebrities like Jessy Mendiola and Ina Raymundo. This year, resolve to embrace a more positive body image and join body positive movements like plump.ph and #blackgirlmagic—and start something confidently beautiful within yourself.

Dip into the Wealth of Available Data

At least 4.66 billion Web pages were reportedly online as of mid-March 2016. Roughly 130 million books have been written as of 2010, according to Google. Anyone can now take massive open online courses at her own time, thanks to sites like Coursera, Edx, Khan Academy, TED-Ed, Udacity, Udemy, Lynda, and a lot more. Using available information, why not join important discourses that can affect the Filipina way of life and let your opinion be heard?

Sit at the Career Table

In several countries in the Asia Pacific, men often get 15% to 30% more in annual base pay than women, with females excluded in part due to the nature of the job, manager bias, and workforce policies. While it’s vital that organizations address the disparity, we can also play our part.

In 2010, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discussed the reasons why there are too few women leaders. Filipina career women should take Sandberg’s cue and learn to negotiate for ourselves at work, delegate equal tasks to our partners at home, and kick ass at work even as we plan for a family.

While one year may not be enough to produce a radical change in you or in society, this year is a good place to start taking gradual steps. Your elders may keep asking you about your single or family life, but this time you’ll have a fuller answer to give. Your male colleagues may still get paid more, but you’re already taking on the training needed to move up. Trying and not reaching your goals is not failure; what can set you up for failure is not having holistic and resilient goals toward self-empowerment.

Photo: Ali Edwards

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