Photo and text by Mayumi Paras
Filipina poet Joi Barrios once wrote, “Ang pagiging babae/ ay walang katapusang pakikibaka/ para mabuhay at maging malaya.”
Now in its sixth year, the 2018 One Billion Rising (OBR) movement chooses solidarity as its primary campaign theme –– urging women to Rise, Resist and Unite against the fascist, imperialist, and neo-liberal attacks prevalent in society.
Solidarity indeed was evident last Feb. 15, when students, faculty members and women from other sectors took part in the One Billion Rising 2018 dance protest at the Palma Hall steps, organized by Gabriela Youth UP Diliman; from there, the group marched to Quezon Hall, where a cultural program took place and the dancing resumed.
“Nais nating iparating ang pinakamalakas nating tinig ng pagtutol at paglaban sa lahat ng anyo ng karahasan sa kababaihan at iba pang kasarian.” Dr. Nancy Kimuell-Gabriel of the UP Gender Office began in her opening remarks. “Ang OBR 2018 ay isang okasyon ng pagsasama-sama, at pagkakaisa, laban sa lahat ng anyo ng opresyon at diskriminasyon.”
Dr. Kimuell-Gabriel introduced the UP Laban sa Opresyon at Diskriminasyon (UP LODI), as well as its four calls to action: to end all violence against women; to end all violence related to gender and sexuality; free education for all; and to regularize workers enslaved under contractualization.
Almira Abril from Gabriela Youth UPD emphasized that being a woman activist goes beyond fighting for the rights of women, and equality between sexes; being a woman activist is to devote oneself to the plights of the masses, becoming one in the fight against industrialization and oppression.
“Ang OBR ay simbolikong pagtindig ng mga kababaihan laban sa patuloy na opresyon na nararanasan ng lipunan.” Abril added. “Worldwide, binubuklod ng OBR ang tinig ng mga kababaihan; ipinapakita na tuloy tuloy ang struggle ng kababaihan kasabay ng pag struggle for genuine change.”
Present, perpetuated discrimination
Despite our society’s attempts at development and progress, mistreatment and discrimination towards women today remains ever prevalent. In fact, the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police released a report stating that the number of cases involving violence against women, ranging from rape and abuse to abduction or kidnapping, has risen from 6,271 in 2004 to 23,865 in 2013.
Worldwide, the numbers are equally alarming.
The United Nations first reported in 2012 that one in every three women will have experienced physical or sexual abuse at one point in their entire lives; looked at on a global scale, the number reaches over a staggering one billion women worldwide.
It is this same daunting statistic that incited what is now known as the One Billion Rising movement, whose primary aim is to put a stop to sexual harassment and violence against women from all walks of life. More than 200 countries have participated in this annual protest, making it the single largest global action taken to end violence against women.
Misogyny – and his name
Under the Duterte administration, however, fighting for women’s rights becomes a much more difficult task.
Dr. Kimuell-Garcia was unafraid to call out the president and his government, stating that “walang katulad na pambabastos, pagmamaliit, pangiinsulta, panghihiya at pagdudurog sa ating pagkatao.”
Shown to have little to no sympathy to the plight of women in the country, and branded as a misogynist since before he had been elected, Duterte was once again under fire for an instruction he had given to his soldiers when dealing with women soldiers and guerilla fighters: “We will not kill you … we will just shoot you in the vagina,” adding a little after how a woman is useless without hers.
Duterte’s threats of violence have proven to be more than mere empty words; November 28 of last year saw the death of fifteen suspected members of the New People’s Army in Nasugbu, Batangas. Of the fifteen fatalities, five were women –– inlcuding Jo Lapira, an activist formerly from the University of the Philippines Manila.
As a former secretary-general and deputy secretary-general for Gabriela Youth in UP Manila, Lapira was one of the voices who emulated the spirit of women activism, relentless in calling others to militant action.
Dr. Kimuell-Garcia declared Duterte was the embodiment of sexism, machismo, and fascism, claiming that not only did the President belittle women and their struggles, “pinagmumukha niyang tanga ang mga kilusang ito.” She also reasoned that it is the president’s very behavior that enables government officials, “mula sa taas hanggang baba,” as well as the military, to perpetuate this culture of violence and oppression against women.
“Mabangis si Duterte laban sa mga mamamayan, lalo na ngayon na matindi ang paglaban kontra sa mga anti mamamayang polisiya ng administrasyon. Dinadagdagan pa ng pagiging bastos ng bibig ni Duterte laban sa mga kababaihan.” Abril said, “Minamaliit ang kakayahan ng babae at ng mamamayan na lumaban.”
To rise, resist, unite
The President’s words, however, do not deter these women, persistent in their fight for liberation.
With movements like the 2017 Women’s March aimed at then newly reinstated US President Donald Trump, campaigns like the #MeToo hashtag that spread across social media platforms against sexual harassment, and events such as the One Billion Rising protest itself, women have asserted their rights as equals –– thereby demanding the respect and visibility they deserve.
Truly, in spite of these hardships, women activists continue on in their pursuit of justice –– not only for women worldwide, but other marginalized sectors who are equally mistreated and oppressed.
“We fight against sexism, patriarchy, and imperialism,” said Monique Wilson, global coordinator of One Billion Rising. “We are rising and resisting against our own president, who doesn’t seem to know how to respect women’s vaginas.”
With the call of “Rise, Resist, Unite,” women on campus and around the world are stirred to action, overcoming whatever hindrances in order to stand –– and dance –– in solidarity and in protest for the one billion whose voices demand to be heard.
“Sa araw na ito, muli natin isasagawa ang sayaw ng protesta, ang sayaw ng paghihimagsik,” said Dr. Kimuell-Gabriel, “at muli’t muli natin ‘to isasagawa hanggang mananatiling makabuluhan ang paglaban natin sa karahasan sa kababaihan. Mabuhay ang ating pagkakaisa.”