Today November 25, International Day to End Violence against Women and on November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we dedicate this column to the women who have committed themselves in the struggle for social change but suffering from persecution because of their political beliefs.
One of them is Rachel Mariano, the Health and Program Desk Coordinator of the Community Health Education Services and Trainings in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore). For two months now, she has been languishing in a prison facility in Ilocos Sur for crimes she did not commit.
She, together with four other women human rights defenders have been maliciously accused of trumped-up cases filed by the Philippine state and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Rachel has dedicated most of her life as a community health worker providing services to depressed communities of indigenous peoples and to marginalized sectors in the Cordillera where health services are hardly accessible or are inadequate. Rachel’s involvement in the people’s movement for societal change where she particularly works in developing alternative community-based and people-managed health programs, critical of the present health care system which is curative in its approach and unaffordable to many have been regarded as threats by the powers-that-be. These make human rights defenders like her targets of political persecution and vilification.
While in prison, Rachel was able to compose poems reflecting her mixed state of mind when she was brought to her prison cell in September 18, 2018 and her adjustments weeks following this. Rachel revealed that she has never written any poetry prior to her incarceration. Her stay in prison however brought out the poet in her just like others who have been in the same situation as hers. She stated that it is the only way for her to cope. Through these, she hopes to let others appreciate her inner thoughts about being in prison for false allegations and how she feels as she longs to be with loved ones.
The ordeal of women human rights defenders (WHRD) like Rachel is a form of state perpetrated violence against women. They suffer from abuse in their different forms from physical, emotional to psychological. In celebrating the occasions of IDEVAW and WHRD Day, we decry the persecution of Rachel and other WHRD’s like her. We demand that the trumped-up charges against Rachel be dropped. We demand as well for her immediate release. We call on the state to stop to all forms of state-perpetrated violence against women! We trust that with our relentless campaign, justice will soon be served.
By Rachel Mariano
Everything seems dark
Like life has reached its end.
My heart pumps like the beating of the gongs,
But my breathing seems to have stopped.
I wish I would be invisible
That I may see no one,
This pain I could not express through fears
The feeling deep within cannot be shown.
To be strong for everyone
To remain calm
To show courage
In the midst of hurting, when all around me is in turbulence.
Time came when I had to face the challenge,
My world fell with an earthquake roar,
Hidden emotions bursting.
My loved ones held me tightly
As if time would not allow us to be together again,
The feel of warm embrace empowers me
to face the second phase of my journey.
Like a bird, I tried to soar high,
Until everyone left, and there was the solitude.
In deep horror of imprisonment,
I prayed for death to take me away.#nordis.net