Women’s Front: We fight hunger, we fight poverty! We assert our survival!


By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

The government says you live with P46 a day or P16,810 in a year (US358). This is the poverty threshold in the Cordillera according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB). This is half the poverty threshold, which is US$2 a day as prescribed by the World Bank and International Labor Organization.

Rural and urban poor women say this is not even enough for one person’s square meals. On the other hand, the government also says, the daily family living wage in the Cordillera is P834 (US$17.7) and 20% of this is allocated for food.

Women say, with their current income of P50-250 (US$1-5.3) a day, 80-100% of their family income is spent on food. Oftentimes, the income is not even enough to buy the family’s food of rice and viand.

The current level of poverty in the Cordillera region and in the country gives women an added burden of stretching the measly resources of their families.

According to indigenous peasant women in Conner, Apayao, what used to be food for the family is now brought to market in order to get additional cash for the family. Before, it was easy to share rice, vegetables, fruits and other food products to neighbors and relatives. With the economic crisis now, women find it hard to share any food item.

What little produce that the family may spare, are sold to buy other food needs. The produce is not even enough for the family with production getting costlier, the attack of pests, irrigation problems and change in climate pattern. What used to be part of the meal like meat, fish and milk for the children, are reduced if not stricken out from the list. This situation is echoed by other women in other parts of the region, in the interior villages, in town and urban centers.

The face of hunger and poverty in the Cordillera may not have reached starvation levels but obviously, families are forced to adjust in the volume and quality of food for their families. Women say what cannot be absent in their kitchen is rice thus all means to provide and seek is done by them and their husbands. This usually means separation of family members as one parent, even women, go to other places for wage labor or overseas as domestic workers.

All remedies to ensure food for the family are sought by women — vending, wage labor, loans and availing of small government livelihood projects which hardly help in alleviating the rural women’s economic conditions. Indeed this situation creates the vulnerability of women to deception, patronage and even to engagement in anti-social activities, like prostitution.

Today, we observe the 13th year of the World Rural Women’s Day and the 29th year of World Food Day. As rural indigenous women, we no longer enjoy abundance of food in our farms and kitchens. As toiling women in town and urban centers, we do not have just wages and secured livelihood to feed our children with the right volume and quality of food.

Families living under the poverty threshold in the Cordillera increased to 28.8% as compared to 25.8% in 2003 (NSCB). Cordillera provinces except for Benguet are part of the top 20 poorest provinces in the country. Apayao and Abra top the poverty incidence of 57.5% and 50% respectively.

The real poverty situation among rural and urban poor women is more downright than these government indicators.

Hunger and poverty is worsened by the inflation rate of 11.4%, the highest in the last 14 years. Rice price rose by 60%, other food commodities followed suit, aggravated by the non-stop oil price hikes of more than P20 per liter.

Hunger and poverty is also worsened by the continuing militarization of the countrysides and the government’s national mineral liberalization program that offered more than 60% of the Cordillera land to foreign mining corporations.

Hunger and poverty has been acknowledged by the Department of Education as the cause for the increased drop-outs among children. The malnutrition rate remains high among rural children in the region despite government’s Food-for- School Program.

National governments and international economic institutions speak about solving the global hunger and poverty problem targeting to reduce global poverty by one half in 2015 through the Millennium Development Plan. It is alarming that 1.4 billion people or almost a quarter of the world’s population, live below the international poverty line, or earning below US$1.25 a day (World Bank). Each year, 5.6 million children aged 5 years and below die as a result of malnutrition. The hunger and poverty situation is aggravated by the soaring of food prices which became particularly steep in the 1st months of 2008(report of the UNSR on Food). Overall, the price of food commodities rose by 83% over the last 36 months.

However, the current global food crisis should not be used by the GMA government as its excuse for the country’s food and economic crisis. It only shows the vulnerability of the Philippine economy being export-oriented and import dependent and driven by neo-liberal globalization. While the GMA government has earmarked P366 billion for it’s Anti-poverty Program which is distributed to National Social Welfare program amounting to P45 billion, the Noah’s Ark Framework amounting to P316 billion and Hunger Mitigation Program amounting to P5 billion, the results of these programs have yet to be seen in the quality of life of poor indigenous women and their communities.

The indigenous peasant women’s organizations in the Cordillera and Innabuyog join rural women and the peasant organizations in the country and the whole world in their actions to decry the hunger and poverty situation and assert their food sovereignty. At the international level, Innabuyog links with the efforts of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP), the Don’t Globalize Hunger campaign of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Peasant Coalition and the Asia Rural Women’s Coalition.

Innabuyog asserts that food can only be secured with a healthy economic condition where the government has the political will to address the age-old problem of land reform, enable the development of national industries that truly develops national economy, support for domestic food production, respect for indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands and of their resources and get rid of liberalization policies which kill the development of agriculture and domestic food production.

As we assert our survival and the survival of future generations, we will not allow ourselves to be defeated by dole-outs, state terrorism and never will we bow down to the capitalist greed on our land and food resources. We will continue to assert our right to our land , and defend our food resources and harvest. #

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