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    The Light of Our Women’s Courage

    25 November 2016

    Message at the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, Philippine Commission on Women, Philippine Commission on Women, PICC

    Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Napakasayang umaga.

    I am so honored to share this morning with so many brave men and women. Iyon po ang nakakatuwa. Kasi dati pag violence against women, lahat babae but this morning napakaraming lalaki tayong kasama.

    Kaya maraming salamat po sa inyo.

    Launching the Campaign for Violence Against Women is not just a milestone in our fight against oppression, inequality, and injustice. The beginning of this 18-day campaign is, at the same time, wonderfully well-timed.

    Remember that three days ago, hindi ko po alam kung nabasa ninyo ito, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed three bills, called the Tres Marias bills, which aim to protect women from various forms of abuse and harassment. Senate Bill 1252 is the Anti-Rape Act, and Senate 1250 is the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill.

    What I think is most groundbreaking, though, is Senate Bill 1251, or the Gender-Based Electronic Violence Bill. The passage of this bill is particularly urgent, given the events of the past week.

    Siguro po nakita naman natin sa balita. As rallies were staged nationwide against the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, we saw other horrors unfold.

    Young women protesters became the target of sexual violence on social media. Nakita ninyo ba iyon? Maraming mga batang kababaihan binabastos sa social media. Photos of girls in these rallies were piled on by Facebook users, who jeered at their bodies and threatened rape and assault.

    Pero ang kabutihan po nila, the crackdown on these people was swift. Citizens came together to put a stop to the online sexual abuse.

    Siguro nakita ninyo rin. Maraming mga abogado ang nagvolunteer ng kanilang libreng serbisyo para dito sa mga nabiktima ng internet abuse.

    And if the Tres Marias bills are enacted quickly enough, we will gain more legislative muscle against the abuse and harassment that women suffer on a daily basis.

    In the meantime, however, this question weighs heavily on our minds: ano na ba nangyayari sa atin? What have we become? Shouldn’t Filipinos know better? We are, after all, one of the highest-ranking nations when it comes to gender equality.

    Last year, the Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum put the Philippines in the top 10 of all nations.

    Top 10 po tayo sa pinakamahusay sa gender equality. In theory, our women should enjoy the same social and economic opportunities as men do.

    And perhaps we do. Across the country, women play prominent roles in their communities. To date, our country has been governed by two female Presidents.

    Countless Filipinas are key leaders in every industry. And fortunately for our daughters, they are free to become the women they want to be. They go to school and get their degrees as their male contemporaries do. They can drive, make their own career choices, even travel alone. Sa ibang lugar, hindi iyon puwede. They can find gainful employment side-by-side with men, and their talents and skills are weighed in equal regard.

    Pero parang nasa surface lang po ito, on the surface, everything looks fine. But beneath that is a recalcitrant culture of misogyny and sexism that persists to the present.

    The abuse that women protesters received on Facebook is just one example. Day after day, women in this country must defend themselves from every instrument of abuse and aggression.

    Strangers openly leering at our bodies. Unwelcome comments about our looks, our breasts, our legs.

    Blatant condescension in the workplace. In some homes, women face daily the ready fist of the man who ironically says he loves them.

    This has to stop. But the challenges in our cause are formidable. The dark roots of sexism travel thick and deep in our national identity.

    Kaya po mahirap kasi marami sa atin pumapayag din. Marami sa atin ang parating excuse, babae kasi kami, lalaki sila.

    We can’t just hack away at some behaviors and expect the abuse to stop. We have to work harder than that. We have to work together.

    That’s why my Office has always opened its doors to everyone who wants to fight for the sake of the ordinary Filipina. Empowering Filipinas is one of the pillars of my Anti-poverty Framework, because I believe that we need the strength of our women for the Philippines to prosper.

    The heart of women empowerment is economic in nature. We cannot even begin to teach Filipinos about gender equality if they are not empowered economically. Ito po parati kong ikunukwento parati.

    Nandito ang mga taga-Naga, ang pinanggalingan ko. Alam po nila ang pinanggalingan ko bago po ako lumahok sa gobyerno. Ako’y isang abogado para sa mga kababaihan na biktima ng pang-aabuso.

    At napakaraming beses may nire-rescue ako, tinutulungan na babae na binubugbog ng sariling asawa. Pagkatapos ko pong tulungan, umaayaw magreklamo.

    Bakit umaayaw? Kasi kadalasan, dependent pa sa asawa. Walang hanapbuhay na sarili, hindi kayang buhayin ang mga anak kung wala ang asawa. Willing na willing tanggapin ang abuse kahit napakahirap.

    That is why ang paniniwala po natin kailangan tulungan ang bawat babae maging economically independent para hindi niya tinatanggap ang pang-aabuso.

    Based on my years of experience working with abused women as a lawyer for the masses, a woman that is worried about feeding her children will sooner bear the pain of her husband’s abuse than leave the source of livelihood and sustenance.

    We have to approach gender quality and women empowerment from the lens of livelihood and economic options for our abused women.

    The Office of the Vice President has partnered with various women’s organizations in and outside government—including the Philippine Commission on Women—to enhance gender equality and women empowerment in our country.

    For starters, we want to enhance the capacities of the PCW, so that it has better leverage to implement its projects and initiatives for Filipinas everywhere, especially the poorest. Part of this plan is to help set up more satellite offices in the region, where the deficiency in gender education needs urgent attention.

    Ito po ay kabahagi ng planong pagpapalakas ng PCW. Marami dito lumapit sa akin sa labas kung saan saan kayo nanggaling. Iyong gusto po natin hindi kailangang pumupunta pa kayo sa Maynila para magreach-out sa PCW pero nang mga provincial offices.

    At the same time, we plan to intensify the localization of the Magna Carta of Women to raise greater awareness on Gender and Development. This also serves to make gender development programs more responsive on the LGU side.

    Our emphasis is especially devoted to the local level, because we want to bring the lessons of gender equality closer to the people.

    Alam po natin lahat. Hindi magiging matagumpay ang kahit anong pagod natin kung wala ang kooperasyon ng local government unit. Our local officials are thus uniquely positioned for that.

    My Office also plans to influence the budgeting process in favor of Gender and Development initiatives. We’re interested, for example, in the way that government offices make use of their GAD budgets.

    More often than not, GAD expenditures are used for activities that have nothing to do with Gender and Development. We have found that GAD funds have become piggy banks for Christmas parties, t-shirt printing, and other pet projects that do not aid the cause for gender equality.

    Alam natin iyon di ba? Ang kagustuhan nating mga lumalaban para sa gender equality, sana naman mayroon tayong boses sa mag-budget ng gender and development fund.

    Kasi madalas lalapit tayo sa LGU, hihingi ng tulong para sa GAD activities wala nang available na budget kasi ginastos sa mga bagay na wala naman, hindi pinakinggan ang ating boses.

    Together, we will change that, so that public funds dedicated to the cause for women are used accordingly.

    Most importantly, we are encouraging entrepreneurship, linkage to markets, and financial literacy for women, so that women can take control over the power of the purse—and eventually, their own future.

    As I said, we need to do this together. Pagtulong-tulungan po natin. On your end, there is so much that we can do to make a difference. Parents must raise their daughters so they grow up with a bright appreciation of their strengths.

    Pag nagpapalaki po tayo ng mga anak na mga babae, palakihin natin silang naniniwala na pantay lamang ang lalaki sa babae. Huwag mong sasabihan na babae ka kaya huwag mong gagawin. Ang lalaki pwede iyan gawin kasi lalaki siya. Doon po nag-uumpisa ang ibang pananaw sa gender.

    Boys and men must be alert not just to the violence that threatens their sisters, wives, daughters, and friends. They must also be aware of how a macho culture dictates their own behavior.

    It’s a culture that claims right and authority only for men, while relegating women to small and disempowering spaces.

    We invite our fathers, brothers, and sons to fight this culture.

    We invite you to see us as your equals.

    As for every girl, every woman, and every mother, I bring this message: do not be afraid. Huwag po tayong matakot. We are with you in fighting for your lives and your future.

    When abuse happens, karamihan sa atin hindi nalang iimik. Pero ang pakiusap natin, please do not hesitate to speak up. Much of the violence that women endure is kept in private: within the walls of our houses, behind closed doors.

    You must raise the alarm, because that’s the only way help can arrive. You deserve that help. You deserve a better life.

    In all of this, bravery is asked of us. Lakas ng loob.

    Ending violence against women is a painful battle. Siguro po nakikita natin iyon.

    Ang violence against women sa ating kapaligiran kadalasan napaka hirap na laban. Kadalasan napaka sakit ng pinagdadaanan ng bawat babaeng nagiging bahagi ng karahasan.

    Pero kapag ito ay nilabanan natin, especially kung katulong natin ang ating mga kasamahan na kababaihan at kalalakihan, the impossible will become possible.

    We should fight with hearts that have survived bitter adversity. Many women are abused by the very men who were supposed to honor and protect them. But it is possible to fight back and reclaim their dignity from the shadows, and we must help them find their voice.

    It is when women speak out about their difficult and traumatic experiences when other women who meet the same fate find the courage to say, enough. We cannot fail them now.

    The Filipina today is stronger and smarter than she has ever been. But the challenges remain, and there is tremendous work for us to do. The campaign we launch today is our call for the better treatment of women everywhere.

    It is a passionate clamor for the respect that is due our humanity. We will not let our women disappear into their fear. We will shatter the darkness with the light of our courage.

    You have a simple way of starting this today by waving your orange flags. Hawak ba ninyo ang mga orange flags? Nasaan ba iyong sa akin?

    Iwawagayway natin ang ating orange flags. Because when put out our orange flags, we will make the world know that we will make a stand together on violence against women.

    Ang gustong sabihin ng pagwawagayway ng orange flag, sama-sama kami na lalaban sa karahasan laban sa kababaihan.

    Maraming salamat po.

    Magandang umaga uli sa inyong lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Nov 25, 2016