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.]

The State of India's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 2008

What is linked to here is a PDF document put forth by the Asian Indigenous & Tribal Peoples Network.

[U.S.] Northern Plains: Indigenous Women's Reproductive Rights and Pro-Choice Page

[For the complete original webpage which includes the artwork above and the all of the text below, please click here.]

Throughout history, Indigenous women have interacted with other Indigenous women through various women's societies. Traditionally, the matters pertaining to women were the business of women. All decisions concerning women's reproductive health were left up to the women as an individual, and her decision was respected, and was final. Oftentimes an Indigenous women would turn to other women within her society for advice, mentoring, and assistance concerning reproductive health.

With the imposition of colonization and Christianity, foreign values, belief systems, and practices were forced upon our communities. Within those foreign systems, decisions pertaining to reproductive health were made by the Church with little regard to individual rights. Traditionally, reproductive health issues were decisions made by the individual, and were not thrusted into the political arena for any kind of scrutinization. The core of decision-making for Indigenous women is between her and the Great Spirit.

Within traditional societies and languages, there is no word that equals abortion. The word itself is very harsh and impersonal. When speaking to traditional elders knowledgeable about reproductive health matters, repeatedly they would refer to a women knowing which herbs and methods to use "to make her period come." This was seen as a woman taking care of herself and doing what was necessary. Oftentimes women would turn to the women within her society that were the keepers of those herbs, medicines, and techniques for assistance.

Native Women's Reproductive Rights Agenda

"Empowerment Through Dialogue," a historical three-day meeting was held in Pierre, South Dakota, on May 16th, 17th, and 18th, 1990. More than 30 Native Women, representing over eleven (11) Nations from the Northern Plains came together in a collective decision-making process to form a Reproductive Rights Coalition. Their efforts resulted in an Agenda for Native Women's Reproductive Rights
Native Women for Reproductive Rights

The aboriginal people of the North Central Plains lived in, not only a democracy, but also a matrilineal society when Pierre Radisson, the first white person, visited the villages in 1654. The Native women enjoyed a life unknown to white women in Europe, being free to own their own homes, participate in decisions about their government, and have control of their bodies.

In the ensuing years, the People were herded onto reservations and today live in hostage status, suffering every deprivation and loss of freedom. Our grandparents were forcibly taken from their families and sent long distances to schools where the teachings and wisdom of thousands of years of our civilization were brain washed out of our grandparents' generation. The insidious erosion of identity, culture, spirituality, language, scientific, and technical knowledge and power created the chaos and violence in which we, as women, struggle to survive and live a decent life.

With knowledge and appreciation of our history, we fully realize our status in today's society, as we state our rights and aspirations as Native women.

Reproductive Rights Platform:

1. The right to knowledge and education for all family members, concerning sexuality and reproduction that is age, culture, and gender appropriate.
[1 through 19]

2. The right to all reproductive alternatives and the right to choose the size of our families.

3. The right to affordable health care, including safe deliveries within our communities.

4. The right to access safe, free, and/or affordable abortions, regardless of age, with confidentiality and free pre- and post-counseling.

5. The right to active involvement in the development and implementation of policies concerning reproductive issues, to include, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals and technology.

6. The right to include domestic violence, sexual assault and AIDS as reproductive rights issues.

7. The right to programs which meet the nutritional needs of women and families.

8. The right to programs to reduce the rate of infant mortality and high-risk pregnancies.

9. The right to culturally specific comprehensive chemical dependency prenatal programs including, but not limited to, prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Effects.

10. The right to stop coerced sterilization.

11. The right to a forum for cultural/spiritual development, culturally-oriented health care, and the right to live as Native Women.

12. The right to be fully informed about, and to consent to any forms of medical treatment.

13. The right to determine who are members of our Nations.

14. The right to continuous, consistent, and quality health care for Native People.

15. The right to reproductive rights and support for women with disabilities.

16. The right to parent our children in a non-sexist, non-racist environment.

17. The right of Two Spirited women, their partners and their families to live free from persecution or discrimination based on their sexuality and/or gender, and the right to enjoy the same human, political, social, legal, economic, religious, tribal and governmental rights and benefits afforded all other indigenous women.

18. The right to give birth and be attended to in the setting most approprite, be it home, community, clinic or hospital and to be able to choose the support system for our births, including but not limited to, Traditional Midwives, Families and community members.

19. The right to education and support for breastfeeding that include but not limited to, individuals and communities that allow for regrowth of traditional nurturing and parenting of our children.

LATIN AMERICA: Indigenous, Black Women Face ‘Triple Glass Ceiling’

By Kintto Lucas

QUITO, Aug 9 (IPS) - Indigenous and black women in Latin America and the Caribbean face three-fold discrimination because of their gender, race and social class, in politics and at work.

That is how it was put by participants in a panel on "Citizenship and Political Participation by Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Women" at the 10th Regional Conference on Women that ended Thursday in the Ecuadorean capital.

Guatemalan indigenous activist Otilia Lux de Cotí said that from the indigenous women’s point of view, the struggle for women’s right to participate is inextricably linked to the struggle for indigenous peoples’ right to participate.

We are discriminated against by governments, by men, and often by other women, so in order to correct historical inequalities, we must restructure the state and build an egalitarian society, said de Cotí, formerly Guatemalan minister of culture and sports.

Therefore, when demanding minimum quotas for women’s participation, quotas for indigenous and Afro-descendant women should also be specified, she said.

"We want to salvage democracy, and to do so we must rebuild it according to our vision for it: democracy in Latin America can only be intercultural," she said.

Afro-Brazilian leader María Inés Barbosa said that sexism and racism are part of the very foundations on which nation states in Latin America and the Caribbean were built.

"To eliminate sexism and racism, we need to change society, but often at international forums we change the words we use so as not to have to change society. This cannot go on; we must change society instead," she said.

"Leaving self-deception aside, often the documents that emerge from these meetings say one thing, but real life for indigenous and Afro-descendant women outside is another thing, because we are the poorest of the poor," she said.

Margarita Antonio, a Miskito Indian woman from Nicaragua, said countries and United Nations agencies should keep working towards providing better training and education for women, who should share the knowledge they acquire with those who stayed home in their communities, to bridge the gaps that also exist between different groups of women.

The panel, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), was attended by more than 100 women representing regional organisations.

Indigenous women presented their manifesto in favour of building a "plurinational" state.

In spite of quantitative and qualitative advances, mid-way through the decade devoted to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we are facing a critical situation exacerbated by the increasing implementation of macroeconomic policies that ignore the collective rights of our peoples, the document says.

It also says that advances in respect for the human rights of indigenous women are tied to the struggle to protect, respect and exercise the collective rights of their peoples, as well as indigenous people’s unity, based on their territories, natural resources, collective traditional knowledge and full recognition of their institutions for self-government.

We recognise the importance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as tools to make progress on strategies for women’s sustainable development and human rights, although the targets used to measure progress do not include cultural or ethnic indicators, says the manifesto, which was made public on Wednesday.

The MDGs were adopted in 2000 by the U.N. member countries as a platform to combat poverty and inequality all over the world, improve health, education and gender equity, fight pollution, and adopt a sustainable development model and a fairer system of international trade. The deadline for fulfilling the MDGs is 2015.

The indigenous women’s document urges states to immediately adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, as the basic platform for indigenous women’s development and equitable participation.

A study by the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), another of the panel’s organisers, found that indigenous women experience access to resources and positions of power in a different way from non-indigenous men and women.

Women account for nearly 60 percent of the 50 million indigenous people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and they face triple discrimination: as women, as indigenous people and as poor people, the study says.

This year the Regional Conference on Women is focussing on the contribution of women to the economy and social protection, particularly through unpaid work, and on political participation and gender parity.

On the subject of political participation by women, in addition to reforming electoral systems with affirmative action measures, a number of aspects of political culture which produce discriminatory bias must be changed, says another study presented on Tuesday by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The necessary changes should address unequal access to financing, the unequal influence of social networks, and the unjust use of time which demands that women focus on reproductive work (repetitive chores like cleaning, cooking and caring for children and the elderly), the ECLAC study says.

The emergence of women leaders in the region, the increasingly autonomous electoral behaviour of women, and the female vote in favour of women candidates are part of the new democratic scenario, says the ECLAC study on "Women’s Contribution to Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean."

Parity is one of the symbols of the new democracies, and is an ethical measure which can strengthen the legitimacy of democratic institutions, the study says. (END/2007)