The place of women is… in the struggle – CIDSE

The place of women is… in the struggle

Sr. Mary John wrote this blog article after the publication of the Bishops’ Statement “Now more than ever, we need mandatory supply chain due diligence to stop corporate abuse and guarantee global solidarity”. Like the bishops, a myriad of women within the Church, including the author of this blog, support the struggle against corporate abuse and form a crucial part of the fight for justice.
See German and French translations by Fastenopfer, CIDSE’s Swiss member organisation.

The largest and perhaps the most militant woman organization in the Philippines is GABRIELA and its vision is to defend women’s rights and work for women’s empowerment in the context of the national movement for the comprehensive transformation (economic, social, political) of Philippine society. As its chairperson for 18 years, I have done a lot of analysis of our society and have taken part in many forms of protest actions and active advocacy in socio-political and women issues. I have realized that in the Philippines, as in many developing countries, globalization which is the integration of all economies to the liberal capitalist market economy, has actually made the conditions of these countries worse than before. Local governments lost their autonomy in controlling imports and legislating tariffs to protect their local economy; there is a greater gap between the rich and the poor, there is a great damage to the ecology and greater exploitation of women and children.

Foreign multi-national corporations have succeeded in controlling the economy of the country. Their corporate practices have violated the rights of workers such as permanency of tenure, right to unionize, right to strike, and the right to just wages. Mining and logging companies have driven indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, and have deprived future generations of the riches of the land such as forests and treasures in the earth. Profits from mined metals which are not processed in the country benefit the foreign multinational corporations more than the local economy. Worse still, the local military are assigned to protect the mining company and their presence in indigenous territories have caused human rights violations such as rape of the women, forced concubinage, killing of indigenous leaders, and burning of indigenous schools.

Feminization of Poverty and other Gender Issues

The poorest of the poor are women and this is what is known as feminization of poverty. Although men are also poor, there is a greater severity of poverty among women than among men. This poverty leads to a lack of longevity, health education or knowledge, decent standards of living, and social and political participation.

As workers, women are paid less than men even if their work is of a higher quality; they suffer sexual harassments from their bosses or even co-workers; they have to bear a double burden because even if they work outside the home they are still responsible for house chores, and the care of children.

As women farmers, they suffer from discrimination in that they do more than 50 percent of the work but are not counted as farmers in statistics and surveys. Most have no access to resources like land or credit. They also manage the sale of the farm products as well as house chores.

Among Filipina women, the indigenous women are the poorest and most exploited. Not many have access to education. When there are military camps protecting the multinational mining corporations, they are subject to rape or forced concubinage. The land grabbing that accompanies the mining enterprises force indigenous families off their lands and military actions drive them to refugee camps where they are easy prey to pimps and agents of the sex industry.

Impact of Environmental Issues on Women

 It is well-known that women are responsible for 60-80% of subsistence food production especially in rural areas. But all livelihoods based on the access to, use of and control over natural resources are already being wildly impacted by extreme weather events such as droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes and climate change over time. In an agricultural setting, women’s reliance on healthy soil, fisheries, water sources, medicinal plants, forest products are deeply affected by climate change. Due to their unequal economic, social, political, and cultural positions, climate change and environmental degradation have greater impact on women’s livelihoods, health, food and nutrition security, access to water and energy, as well as coping capabilities. All these significantly increase women’s burden of unpaid work.
Although women produce most subsistence foods and cash crops, lack of land tenure and of access keeps women from obtaining credit, training, and other supports, thereby preventing them from using their traditional, conservation practices. 

The Place of Women is… in the Struggle

The traditional belief that the place of woman is in the home is no longer tenable today. Many women today work outside the home. The same is true in political struggle, Women claim the right to be active in society especially in struggles for human rights and to fight oppression and exploitation in any form. Women in the Philippines have organized themselves to be a part of the struggle for a comprehensive transformation of society, to practice solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, to protect and defend human rights, to work for women’s empowerment and to protect the environment. Since the late 60’s, women’s organizations have sprung up on the national and local level. In 1984 many of these came together to form GABRIELA which at its height numbered 250 women’s organizations and 50,000 individual members. As Chairperson of GABRIELA for 18 years I organized with our national council an annual march on International Women’s Day featuring social or women’s issue such as equal wages for women, violence against women, workers’ rights, human trafficking,  etc.

There are also women ecological advocates in national and local organizations. But I want to pay tribute to two women whose ecological advocacy had a national impact. One is our own Sister Aida Velasquez who was a pioneer of the ecological movement in the Philippines, led the struggle against multi-national mining companies polluting rivers in Mindoro, launched a nation-wide campaign against GMO food, and one of the leaders of the Nuclear Free Philippines Movement which prevented the Nuclear Plant from functioning up to this day. The other is Gina Lopez. She established Bantay Kalikasan, (Environmental Watch) and she[8] initiated the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and nearby urban streams. She was appointed Secretary of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources by President Duterte. She immediately launched a campaign against illegal mining and closed mines that violated ecological policies earning the ire of influential people who lobbied that she should not be confirmed in her role.

Sr. Mary John Mananzan is a Benedectin nun and an activist.

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