Rhona, can you tell us about Isis
International and why you are visiting Australia?
Rhona: Isis International is a womens organisation based in Manila. It was founded in 1974. Before it was based in Rome and then it transferred to Manila in 1991. The objective of Isis is to link women and provide channels among womens organisations and networks. Im here in Australia to visit some womens resource centres and womens organisations. Ill be here around 8 days, 4 days in Brisbane and 4 days in Sydney. Im planning to interview some of the womens resource centres just to get some basic information on what they do, their objectives, their programs and of course how they manage their resource centres.
What particular problems do women in
the Philippines experience?
Rhona: Basically its poverty and unemployment. And because of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, especially in the northern Luzon region many women dont have means of supporting their families.
Do you think sexual exploitation is a
major problem for women from developing countries like the
Rhona: Yes, its a major problem. Actually Philippines is one of the more badly affected countries. Many children are involved in the trafficking, we have paedophilia in the country and many teenagers are victims of the white slavery trade.
What kind of representation do women
have in government and business in the Philippines?
Rhona: Representation is not enough. We have several women senators, but thats it, and theyre quite traditional or what you call conservative.
So they really dont progress the
womens rights movement in the Philippines?
Rhona: Well, they progress because of the womens organisations. The womens organisations and feminist movement is quite strong and very vocal about womens issues. But at times that is basically the problem we have a lot of traditional conservative officials in the government.
Youve recently visited the Solomon
Islands. Can you tell us what the situation is like there
Rhona: One problem in Soloman Islands womens issues is wife abuse or the domestic violence. A lot of women are victims of bashing or verbal abuse and physical abuse by their husbands. And its not really being discussed among the women because its taboo. And most of the people in Soloman Islands are Christians. Like in the Philippines, their religion is really strong. Their beliefs are that the family is always private and it shouldnt be discussed in public. So, domestic violence is a taboo subject.
What kind of womens organisations
are in the Solomon Islands?
Rhona: There is SIWNET. SIWNET is Soloman Islands Womens Information and Communications Network. SIWNET provides information by radiothey have a radio program. They give information on womens issues like education, womens rights, health, environment, etc.
How do you think Australian women can
help women from developing countries?
Rhona: Well they have to link or build contacts with developing countries. Because were quite isolated we are Third World and you are First World. And theres really a gap in communication. I think especially in the Pacific regions, like on Vanuatu, Tonga and Soloman Islands, they dont have access to information, theyre quite isolated. Thats what theyre asking for access to information and links with womens organisations.
Do you think theres similarities
between womens rights here in Australia and womens
rights in countries like the Philippines and the Solomans?
Rhona: Well, Im not sure yet with Australia. But I know that the feminist movement in Australia is really quite strong and you have more rights, I think, compared to developing countries like the Philippines. Of course In the case of Soloman Islands you have to consider the culture and religion. The women are quite oppressed, like in the Philippines, because the dominant religion is Catholic. Most of them are Christians.
Whats it like for women living in
the Philippines who are aware of feminist issues?
Rhona: Well, most women are repressed as Ive told you because we believe in the Catholic system, we were raised Catholics. So if you are going to talk about abortion or homosexuality, well thats quite a very, very taboo issue in the Philippines. But some women are slowly developing their awareness in womens issues and thats why the womens organisations in the Philippines are really trying to educate the women through their programs. Like Isis, for instance for the coming three years, we have a program on educating young girls. So were promoting reading and writing and of course were disseminating information among the womens organisations and their contacts.
Copies of Isis publications are available at the CPCA Brisbane library, 84 Park Road, Woolloongabba.