A hundred years ago, the International Women’s Day was declared in Copenhagen by the 2nd International Conference of Socialist Women. Henceforth, we continue marching around the globe to advance our vision of equality and push back all forces of oppression.
In Asia and Oceania, women are marching for peace as US military bases are being expanded in Okinawa and Guam. Already, the overwhelming majority of American bases are in Asia, creating a ring around China, as part of their “containment policy.” Military agreements such as the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) are forged by Australia and the US to ensure markets for their boats, arms and ammunitions, thus propping up conflicts in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq and countries under the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, China remains to be the major supplier of arms to the military junta in Burma, and keeps control of Tibet.
Women, in these conflicts, are displaced. Rape is used as a weapon of war. US soldiers, in particular, continue to sexually abuse women in host countries as dispensable objects. In the Philippines, the Arroyo government favored the perpetrator, instead of asserting criminal jurisdiction over custody of the accused, as in the case of the rape by Daniel Smith and his cohorts.
Women workers are marching on, as the Arroyo government continues to fail in meeting its target for job generation. It offers but offshore call centers to our university graduates. In subcontracted work, they are offered much lower salaries than their Northern counterparts. The youths are forced to live the culture and time zone alien to ours, if only to make their families survive.
The hailing of overseas workers as new heroes echoes a government’s resignation to labor export as employment strategy. The women migrant workers who fall victims to exploitation are but life-size signs of government apathy to our workers’ plight.
Crisis brought about by the failure of the neo-liberal paradigm has pushed more women workers to the informal sector. Despite this, the Northern countries are bent on concluding the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) “development” round towards tying down more South markets to Northern products. And the Arroyo government is ready to accept the North’s offer and has broken away from the ranks of other developing countries. This will result to further losses of local farmers and national businesses, and therefore loss of livelihood. In the recent months, stories of farmers killing themselves are coming out. In the recent years, stories of mothers killing themselves have shocked a nation never associated with suicides.
Women in the rural areas are marching, given also heavy pressures on agricultural lands by states biased to natural-resource-extractive industries such as mining, large-scale plantations and dams. The consequent militarization of local areas, aimed at protecting the interests of foreign investors yet justified as peace-keeping efforts, makes women victims of armed conflict. Displacement of families due to conflict or development aggression has further marginalized women and children as they are uprooted from their lands, their very source of survival.
With the Arroyo government’s failure in implementing genuine agrarian reform, rural women remain desperate in seeking food to put on their tables. Food sovereignty continues to be elusive amidst massive land conversion. Similarly, water sources are either seized by large-scale resource extraction or become polluted by mine wastes and pesticides. In the face of this, Arroyo continues to prioritize debt payments over and above social services.
Thousands of women and girl-children, especially from rural, indigenous and Muslim communities are denied of public services such as health, education, water, and others subjected to liberalization under the WTO.
Women survivors of gender violence are marching as realities of domestic violence, coupled with government neglect, force rural women to cling to promises of migrant labor notwithstanding the risks of sexual abuse, involuntary servitude, and slavery.
Arroyo’s disregard for the Anti-Prostitution and Reproductive Health bills, and coddling of political warlords such as the Ampatuans, who are responsible for the recent massacre that involved the rape and mutilation of 21 women, have all too clearly exposed her complicity with patriarchal forces carrying out violence against women. We do not forget the cases of violence against women and children committed by Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, Ambassador Claudio Teehankee, Jr., Presidential Appointee Chavit Singson and other criminals who either got executive pardon or were simply reprimanded by the President. Arroyo’s administration is equally responsible for the irreversible harms of violence against women and children.
We have had enough of Arroyo’s kleptocracy and collusion with sponsors of militarism, perpetrators of violence against and authors of neo-liberal globalization! Filipinas and all women in the Asia Pacific deserve political leaders that defend their rights and lives, rather than sell their bodies and dignity.
We will keep on marching until militarism is dismantled. We will march until states have put in place full employment that allow for mothers, sisters and daughters to have real choices. We will march until rural women have truly claimed land and support services. We will march until WTO shrinks and eventually sinks.
We will march until we have built a world based on peace, justice, equality, freedom and solidarity!