Women vow to end VAW


BAGUIO CITY — After almost 30 years since the United Nation’s declaration of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), women are still clamoring for equal rights.

In a forum here Friday, women from different sectors from Baguio City and other Cordillera provinces gathered and re-affirmed their resolve to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women and children.

According to Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza, women’s rights do not just include gender rights but also economic, socio-cultural and political rights.

“We are not just asserting our gender rights but when we say women’s rights, it encompasses our economic, socio-cultural, political and gender rights,” said Maza.

Meanwhile, women from different sectors gave their testimonies to show how their rights are abused in different forms.

Militarization

Betty Belen of Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga bear witness to how military forces wreak fear among the community members when the 21st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) entered their ili without any permission and fired some rounds randomly.

“It was good that nobody was around but one of the cows ended up dead after being hit with four shots,” said Belen adding that because of the incident that happened in September 18, one of the pregnant women had a miscarriage because of fear.

According to Maza, militarization is not just happening in the countryside but in urban centers as well particularly in the urban poor communities in the National Capital Region (NCR) where military forces are now present to cause fear among progressive people’s organizations like Gabriela.

Gabriela among other progressive organizations are tagged by the AFP as terrorists and communist fronts thus considered as enemies of the state.

Demolition

Garet Killip, a vendor of Baguio City and a member of Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus), said that everyday they face violence in the hands of the police who

“Despite that, we give daily kurtais (market fee), they do these harassment to us who only want to earn a decent living,” said Killip.

In Baguio City, tourism has driven the policy-makers to rid the public market, parks and sidewalks of “eye sores.” This has deprived the urban poor of a decent livelihood.

Labor rights violation

“Sa haba at lawak ng karanasan ko sa pagawaan, walang naibigay na mabuti ang kapitalista sa kababaihan.” (With my long experience in the factory, I could say the capitalists did nothing good for women.) This was just one of the many sentiments of Mel Macalood, a retrenched laborer of Adriste Philippines, Inc. in Baguio City’s Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).

Macalood said, as a lesbian worker, she was subjected to more discrimination as she and other lesbian workers were given “men tasks” like carrying heavy rolls of cloth but because they are women they just received a “woman’s pay” according to the management.

“Many factories prefer hiring lesbians because aside from doing ‘men tasks,’ the companies can get away from giving them maternity benefits as they do not get pregnant,” said Macalood who is also an active member of the Lesbians for National Democracy (Lesbond) based here in the city.

According to Macalood, she and nine other workers, mostly lesbians, were illegally dismissed from work in 2007 when the company sided with a production manager who they complained to have committed serious misconduct against his subordinates.

The 10 laid off workers were the ones trying to organize the workers in the company despite EPZA having a “no union policy.”

“It is the right of every woman to be organized, and that is what we are fighting for,” ended Macalood who is now a full time organizer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Cordillera.

Political persecution

The pain of not knowing the condition and whereabouts of a brother is hard to bear for a sister. This was the testimony of Nonette Balao, the sister of the missing activist James.

“How much pain can a woman bear? Sometimes we ask ourselves why does it have to happen to us? We also do not know why. Things like this should not happen by God’s law and by humanitarian acts,” lamented Balao.

“Mabtad tako amin apo! Our very own Igorot cry for our search for our enforcedly disappeared son, brother and friend. Let us all get out of our houses to assemble and shout our cries for James. Bumala tako am-in ibugao tako’y sakit di nemnem man bibinnadang tako ay manginap sin kabsat tako ay malit-litao,” said Balao.

The challenge

Maza said she was inspired by the testimonies of the brave women who continue to fight for what they deserve.

They did not just tell us about their situation but also shared to us their commitment to continue to assert our rights as women,” said Maza.

“There will come a time when we would stop to struggle for equal rights, nor kneel down and beg for society to respect us. Together we will earn that respect,” said Baguio City Councilor Pinky Chan-Rondez who also graced the occasion. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

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