Thursday, April 8, 2010
In the latter part of March, International Women’s Month, I had the privilege of being invited to two events organized by women’s rights advocates or those who make up the community of Filipino women activists that collectively call themselves kawomenan (literally, the women or the womanhood or the womankind). On 25 March 2010, Thursday, I along with around 40 others participated in a roundtable discussion (RTD) on sex and culture and how issues surrounding the same impact on the lives of young Filipino women today. The RTD was organized by the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) in collaboration with Women’s Education Development and Productivity Research Organization (WeDpro) Philippines with funding support from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem). After the RTD, a class picture was taken but since some of the participants left early not everyone was included (see pic above).
The RTD was meant to bring women’s rights advocates together to identify advocacy areas where they could work hand-in-hand in promoting sexual rights and sexual justice in the contexts of young women in the Philippines of today. Several key issues were discussed in the whole-day workshop including women and their relationship with Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), raunch culture, narratives of “hotness” in the 21st century and how they can be more empowering for women and issues of sex, power and agency. I was very happy to spend that day with one of the long-time activists of the TLBG community here, Atty. Angie Umbac who I very much admire and look up to (see pic above). Angie is the president of the Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc. and is one of the TLBG community leaders here who has truly served the local community for years—doing so quietly, loyally and by turning in solid and hard work without making grand claims about or shamelessly promoting herself. The kind of work that they have done in R-Rights under her leadership has touched many people’s lives and is truly worth emulating. I am so proud to call her my personal friend.
Over-all the RTD was a very fruitful exchange and I hope to attend more of them in the future. Already, I have agreed with one of the pillars of the feminist movement here in the Philippines, Aida Santos who moderated the RTD (see pic above) for WeDpro of which she is a Managing Trustee and STRAP to work together in the area of trafficking. WeDpro is currently conducting research among women sex workers in a certain area in the Philippines many of whom are transwomen.
On 26 March 2010, Friday, I along with STRAP Treasurer Joy Cruz (middle, in the pic above) and one of our new and very active members in STRAP, Yasmin Lee (rightmost in the pic above) attended the launch of the book The Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, written by a long-time ally of STRAP in the women’s movement, Atty. Bing Guanzon. The book is about a Philippine law of the same name, Republic Act (RA) 9262 and discusses RA 9262’s salient features, its constitutionality, problems in its enforcement and recommendations on how to strengthen its implementation and what interest groups including the judiciary, most importantly, can do to affirm and uphold the spirit and intent of the law.
The highlight of the evening’s event was the presence of the former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani who was instrumental in getting the new rape law passed which includes male rape. The STRAP girls did not waste the chance to get a pic with the former Senator taken along with Atty. Guanzon Iin pink in the pic above) especially since we were seated at the same table as the former Senator.
Atty. Guanzon gave different groups present at the launch a complimentary copy of her book. STRAP got a signed copy of course (see pic above). I was touched by the dedication that the good lawyer wrote in the front cover of the book. It says: Dear STRAP, To all women of the world, more power to us all. I truly love Atty. Guanzon and I look forward to years of friendship and advocacy work with her. Long live the women’s movement in the Philippines! Mabuhay ang kawomen! Mabuhay ang Pinay!