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USA: International Women’s Day: A loud protest against violence

Marching on, their voices heard

International Women’s Day: A loud protest against violence
Text and photos by Dionesio C. Grava
First published in The Filipino Advocate

They were conspicuous in their absence, they who were a hit during last September’s Women’s Equality Day rally in the heart of entertainment city, Hollywood. Filipina speakers like Jollene Levid, chair of the Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization and Marginalization (AF3IRM); Cheryl Zarate of Kabataang Makabayan and Angela Bartolome, Stand with Grace Campaign.

Marchers approach the heart of entertainment, Hollywood

It was Ms. Levid then who prompted English-speaking participants to learn a few Filipino words: “Makibaka!” Others in the crowd responded: “Huwag matakot!” On the celebration of International Women’s Day last Saturday, March 9, they were nowhere near. It was a lady named Peta Lindsay who led the chants:

Leader: Women united.
Response: We’ll never be divided!

No more rape and no more violence
We women won’t be silenced!

They say bend back
We say fight back!

Not the church, not the faith
Women will decide our fate!

Our body, our fight
We demand our human right!

It has become a yearly ritual, feminists of the world taking over the streets to manifest their strength and calling for change. This year it is about violence against women and the need to stop it, pronto!

Cops arrest a heckler

They were supposed to assemble at Hollywood and Vine avenues at 1 pm but it was about an hour later that their mass emerged from a side street and into Hollywood Av. chanting their rage against sexual violence. They were escorted by bike and motorcycle-riding cops, which at times appeared more numerous than the marchers.

Informative reading materials for free

Leaflets made available for free highlighted violence as a form of oppression that is not normal. “The violence, objectification and inequality that women experience—isn’t just ‘the way it is.’ It is a product of a patriarchal system and of institutionalized sexism and can only be solved by a grassroots movement that fights those root causes. Women themselves hold the power to bring an end to sexual violence. Every single right we as women have today is the result of a fight-back movement.

Carol Bouldin of Women Occupy reads the declaration of women's inalienable fundamental rights.

The observance of International Women’s Day is said to have started in the early 1900’s mostly in industrialized places centering on the need of women to better their situation and hopefully attain equity in the workplace. As time goes on the demands gradually become stringent and voices more vocal, even radical at times. Today’s feminists are certainly more active and a far cry from yesteryears and nowhere is this more evident that in mass actions championing their ideologies and rights — or perceived rights. I googled this year’s 102nd celebration of IWD and there were thousands of events pertaining to it in the USA alone.

And where were our womenfolk on that day? Filipina activists were at the Echo Park United Methodist Church evening of March 6 marking the occasion. They had this statement: “We’ve gathered our collective voices in speaking out and truly embracing why it’s great to be a Pinay. And yes, while there are still several fundamental issues that need to be addressed, we also aim to give a positive momentum to our continuing quest against violence and discrimination and respect for women’s rights.”

SiGAw-GABRIELA USA, in collaboration with BAYAN-USA, NAFCON, Panaghiusa for Mindanao, Migrante, Habi Arts, AnakBayan Los Angeles, Filipino Migrant Center, Filipino American Health Worker’s Association and Int’l League of People’s Struggles had a “Bangon, sulong kababaihan!” program of poems, songs and dances of courage, inspiration and hope on that same date at 1226 Alvarado St., Los Angeles. “Filipina women historically and currently contribute to larger people’s movements and continue to valiantly assert their rights in the Philippines and abroad, amidst intensifying exploitation and oppression,” the group said.

A rally member breaks into a jig.

The Migrant Forum in Asia also had this to say: “Milestones gained to protect and promote the rights of women migrant workers are reflected in international human rights and labor rights treaties such as the CEDAW, CMW and ILO C189, and in national laws that aim to ensure women’s rights. However, we are currently facing a moment where barriers to fully implementing these laws and accessing justice for rights violations endanger the empowerment and human dignity of women migrant workers.”

Earlier on February 14, Valentines Day, Pinays actively participated in the women world movement called One Billion Rising. It calls for an end to violence against women. Women activities in the homeland shouted out a demand for an end to rape, harassment and other human rights violations as well as US military occupation of the Philippines. US occupation?
Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of a coalition called CATW-AP, also reported that their group conducted a “flashmob” in front of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in Makati to express opposition against corporate mining and YES to development.

Their statement: “International Women’s Day celebrates our hopes, our rights, our voices, our movements as we continue to work towards the elimination of violence and discrimination, our right to self-determination, our right to decide on our bodies, communities and natural resources. We voice out the development we want. We move towards equality and justice. We dance until we are all free.”

They said that mining poisons our food and waters – mine tailings seeping through the water system, backhoes excavating our rice fields, coastal areas and mountains. Women toil more than twelve hours a day to produce and secure food for their families, to bring water to their homes, to gather medicines from their forests. Women regard the land and water as source of life; but yes, mining corporations easily disregard the value of life. They issued a demand for a development path that uplifts the dignity and lives of the Filipino communities, nurtures the natural resources and environment, and eliminates all forms of violence against women.

Ms. Enriquez lists the following groups that have joined their mission: Akbayan–Youth, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Amnesty International, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, Asian Circle 1325, Bagong Kamalayan, BATIS, Batis-AWARE, Buklod, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino – Kababaihan, CATW-AP, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc., DAKILA Palawan Collective, Development Action for Women Network, Filipino Deaf Women Health and Crisis Center, Focus on the Global South, Free Burma Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition • Initiatives for International Dialogue, Kababaihan-Pilipinas, KAISA-KA, KAMP, Kasibulan, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, KsK/Friends of the Earth-Phils., LILAK (Purple Action for Women’s Rights), Medical Action Group, MFA, Partido Lakas ng Masa, Partido ng Manggagawa, PAHRA, PEACE, Philrights, Piglas Kababaihan, PKKK, PREDA, RENEW, Rice Watch and Action Network, SARILAYA, Transform Asia, Unlad Kabayan, WEDPRO, WomanHealth Phils., Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Welga ng Kababaihan, Women’s Crisis Center, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality and World March of Women.

First published in The Filipino Advocate