KASAMA Vol. 25 No. 1 / January-February-March 2011 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

2011 is International Women’s Day Centenary
How Far Have We Gone?

WeDpro’s International Women’s Day’s (IWD) Statement

RP - 2011- IWD Centenary
The United Nations has declared the 2011 IWD theme on “Equal access to education, training and science technology: pathway to decent work for women.”

WeDpro’s work since 1989 has taken on the path which addresses women’s human rights especially all forms of violence. In recent months, after an organizational review and direction setting in late 2005, WeDpro has committed itself to addressing the social and economic rights of its constituents. Redeveloping and enhancing its programs in two former United States military baselands in the cities of Angeles and Olongapo, as well as continuing its national and international engagements, WeDpro saw that the situation of women -- particularly the urban poor, the victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking — and the nth generation of youth caught in the same trap of violence, as unabated.

In many of the communities that WeDpro works, hardly anyone of our women earns a minimum wage, despite the heralding of official statistics that one out of 10 families have been pulled out of poverty. Our youth are doing odd jobs all the time; except for those rare souls that have entered the call center industry which is also a precarious employment given the global competitions for low-wage workers. Some of the income sources for the poor, marginalized and discriminated, are vending food, selling their labor for a pittance and, in not too uncommon experiences, entering the sex industry that has now evolved because of Internet technologies.

The most vulnerable of the youth are the “black” Amerasians who, sired by US military servicemen with their Filipina “girlfriends,” continue to suffer extreme discrimination. A number of them, mired in poverty, hardly completed secondary schooling. What jobs are available for them that are decent and with just wage? Their mothers, and in some cases their grandmothers, who finally got out of prostitution, are broken souls who have decided to keep the painful memories close to their heart and to make ends meet despite the challenges of their circumstances. Mothers and children from these populations are often peripheral to the development agenda of many donors, non-government organizations and stakeholders. It seems like the message is, “the bases are gone, and the problems are not that significant…”

One hundred years after the first celebration of IWD, racism and all its implications is alive and throbbing right in the heart of former US military facilities.

“Equal access to education, training and science technology: pathway to decent work for women,” is an urgent call that should be heeded by all states, not just in developing countries such as the Philippines, but even in other parts of the world where poverty and especially among youth, have been the torch of uprisings and rebellions.

The fruits of science and technology, despite its dramatic advances in recent decades, have been elusive to many women and their communities. In the Philippines, the most dramatic example of this is the raging debate between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the advocates for the reproductive health bill. It has been proven that the number of maternal mortality and infant deaths is linked to poverty and lack of education and access to reproductive health information and services. The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality and morbidity in the region.

IWD was conceived as a celebration of women’s achieving the right to vote. Yet, to be voted to office and to vote have not guaranteed women’s genuine liberation from the yokes of patriarchal and capitalist agenda. Yet, despite this right — after women hoped that this would be a touchstone of our empowerment — women’s voices continue to be marginalized in the patriarchal world. The examples are many: migration has assumed a female face, and poverty has the body of a woman. Female genital mutilation, sexual bondage and slavery, violence against women, are just some of the modern-day prisons for women.

Indeed, global history shows that women have been leaders and in some countries, even presidents, but these are exceptional women born to families of wealth, influence and were there at a circumstance of their milieu. The greater majority, despite the vote, reels in unimaginable poverty and lives in horrors of their being simply, women.

The world is aflame with uprisings. Women have been actively participating in street demonstrations, mobilizing in ways that have been unprecedented in fundamentalist countries which have kept them silenced, invisible and victims of antiquated and misogynist laws and cultural practices. Equality in all aspects of women’s lives — “private” and “public” — is a dream for another hundred years. So we build on our hundred years of little victories, as we commemorate our foremothers’ struggles and hopes.

Long live the women of the world!

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Phone/fax: [+632] 4267479

WeDpro is a member of the Scrap VFA Movement and the Philippine Women’s Network for Peace and Security.