Monday, December 8, 2008

Philippines: Indigenous Women Speak out to End Violence against Women

Modern-day Marias tackle woes
Written by Lyn V. Ramo/ Nordis
Sunday, 30 November 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Women’s groups here organize with families of survivors of violence a gathering here on Friday to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).

IDEVAW started Tuesday with a press briefing here that featured modern-day women’s issues.

Innabuyog-Gabriela Chair Vernie Yocogan-Diano said the modern-day “Marias” suffer from the brunt of the current socio-economic crises and face problems beyond physical and sexual harm.

Gabriela Women’s Party’s Liza L. Maza will be the main speaker at the forum dubbed “Asserting Women’s Rights Amidst the Philippine Socio-economic Crisis” at the Sangkabalayan Hall of the Baguio Cathedral. It shall start promptly at 1:00 P.M., according to Yogogan-Diano.

National indigenous women’s workshop

In connection with this commemoration, Innabuyog and the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN) hosted the national women’s network BAI conference last Sunday up to Tuesday. The conference gave indigenous women from as far south as Mindanao, Panay and Palawan a chance to share experiences with their counterparts in Cagayan and Cordillera regions in the north.

Using the situation of nine indigenous communities, the workshop discussed particular and distinct violence against indigenous women in the Philippines.

Of particular interest that spruced up discussions were the sharing of women from mining communities in Mindanao, Palawan, Cagayan and Cordillera. It turned out mining applications by foreign mining transnational corporations cover inhabited communities like Conner in Apayao, Kinam in Saranggani, Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte and Mariwara in Princess Urduja, Palawan

“These are but case studies that show how mining has changed women’s roles as their traditional sources of livelihood have been destroyed by mining operations,” Yocogan-Diano said.

Pesticides on breakfast coffee

Discussions also ran high on the mono-crop plantations in Mindanao, where aerial spraying of pesticides have been reportedly bringing about health problems among residents, especially women who work in the plantations.

In an interview, Norma Capuyan, chairperson of the BAI Kalumaran, said banana plantation workers in Davao City are directly exposed to pesticides resulting from aerial spraying. She narrated the story of a woman who later died in 2004 after gathering kangkong (marsh cabbage) from a creek that carries pesticide overflows from a Dole Stanfilco plantation.

“Practically almost nothing was left of her body when she died three months after,” Capuyan told Baguio reporters. At least four local doctors opined her internal organs were damaged. Her skin and flesh stuck to the beddings, she said.

In an earlier interview, another Davao City resident said people in the vicinity of the plantations even drink their pesticide coffee when the helicopter would spray early in the morning.

“School children practically bathe in the pesticide showers when they meet the helicopter on their way to school,” our anonymous source said.

Driving indigenous folk away

Pests attack farms outside the banana plantations, depriving peasants of their traditional crops.

Worse, indigenous farmers have been enticed into renting out their lands to the plantations for a measly P12,000 a year per hectare. According to Capuyan, this has been polarizing community folk.

Similarly in Sarangani province, jathropa plantations have expanded by renting lands at P20,000 per year per hectare.

A military reservation in Panay Island, on the other hand has fenced off indigenous peoples from their traditional sources of income and livelihood. Curfew was imposed from 8:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. with land mines compelling residents to refrain from going out of their houses.

Ventilating women’s issues

Eleanor Bang-oa, a Kankanaey from Baguio City who represents AIWN, said the situation requires capacity building among indigenous women to enable them to articulate their issues, give recommendations for government action, corporate involvement and forward these to concerned bodies in the United nations.

“Women should exhaust efforts and means to raise issues and concerns,” Bag-oa said, adding the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is one venue where indigenous women could ventilate concerns.

Innabuyog, BAI and AIWN, in a joint statement said indigenous women in the Philippine will continue addressing issues of violence against indigenous women along with the general issues faced by indigenous peoples and women in the country.

“It is necessary to deepen our understanding on the various forms of violence, build strength to assert our collective rights to land, resources and self-determination as well as our basic individual rights and against feudal-patriarchal and commercial view that discriminate us as women and limit our full participation in all spheres of involvement and development,” the joint statement said.

[For the original post of this article, please click here. There are many other reports and accounts from women throughout Asia about conditions and struggles quite unknown to most Westerners, and invisibilised completely by dominant media. This one website alone helps me realise how completely out of touch I am with what most of the world's women experience.]

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