By ALMA SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — Women representatives from the Asia Pacific countries shared their experiences on the impact of militarism in their homes at the conference on “Women resisting violence and war”, held at the Igorot Lodge, Camp John Hay from July 19-21, 2010.
The conference was attended by 119 delegates from different countries like Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Hongkong, Indonesia, Iraq, East Timor, Australia and China among others.
In the conference workshop on the Impacts of war and militarism, the representatives shared stories of women actions in their countries under the state of militarism, and inspired each other to strengthen solidarity against militarization.
Sheena Rosas, a 15 – year – old Board of Director of the National Coalition of Children’s Association in the Philippines recounted experiences in 2007 when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) set – up a detachment in their town in Masbate. She said, the AFP told the community that they are there to promote peace and order because that was the time when the election campaign was on going and also because of the alleged presence of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in their town.
Sheena in her young age observed how the presence of the AFP has created chaos in their community. According to her, members of the AFP courted married women resulting to broken families. There were also ladies who were left behind after getting pregnant.
“Iyong detachment nila, malapit sa iskul namin kaya po natatakot kami lagi.” (Their dtachment is near our school that’s why we are always afraid). She added that there was one time that they were afraid to go to school because of the rumor that a bomb was planted inside the school campus.
Even the elders of the community she said were having heart problems because of fear.
“Minsan ang mga militar din ang dahilan ng gulo dahil kapag lasing sila, nanggugulo sila.” (Sometimes the military are the ones creating trouble in the community when they are drunk).
Burnad Fathima Natesan from the Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) shared several experiences of women in India. She told to the conference that in Manipur, there was a 13 – year – old girl who was raped, tortured and killed by the state army because she was accused to be a member of the strong women’s organization there.
She also accounted the story of a woman who has a husband who is a member of guerilla army. Members of state forces talked to her to convinced her husband to surrender an in exchange, the family will be living a peaceful life. The woman was lured to the offer and was able to convinced her husband.
However, when the husband surrendered, the state army killed him infront of his wife and his child. And in the presence of the child, they raped and killed the woman.
The child cannot even talk because of severe trauma when Fathima and her group went there for a Fact Finding Mission (FFM).
Ihtisham Ul Haq Kakar, the Executive Director of Balochistan Rural Development and Research Society (BRDRS) of Pakistan said they are experiencing high level of militarism. Their government is alloting 80% of the government funds for its armed forces and only the remaining 20% for its social services.
No woman, she said can go out from their houses because of the war on terror which is, according to her, caused by US Imperialism.
On the other hand, stories of women succesful struggles have inspired the delegates.
One of the stories is shared by Gloria Bongo of the Bluestar Workers Labor Union (BWLU) in Tunasan, Muntinlupa. They had staged successful strike against the Bluestar Manufacturing Inc.where they had suffered meager wages, sexual harassment specifically under the company president, and unsafe working environment, etc. for years without union. But due to the unity of the women workers who are 85% of of the Bluestar’s labor force, they had organized a union and registered it with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
The management retreched 65 of the workers, members of the union and planned to close the company and transfer to another country. Due to this, the BWLU staged a strike for a month until they won amidst the effort of the company to break their piket line by using the state forces.
Herminia de Deus of East Timor accounted how she and other 240 men and women were able to receive the “Lorico Asuwain” medal or the “Brave Lorikies” medal on November 28, 2009, the day when Indonesia granted East Timor its Independence. She joined the resistance for national freedom when she was 19 years old. She was accompanying their parish priest in helping people in the remote areas of East Timor until she joined the underground movement in their university.
It was in 1991 when the university students organized a demonstration that resulted to what they call the Santa Cruz massacre. That was the time when she was warned that Indonesian Intelligence was looking for her. She stopped studying and joined the women’s organization until the declaration of their independence.
She talked about women who bravely participated in the resistance’ frontline. They carried weapons and fought side by side with the men in the mountains. “You hear about those who were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and violated. Those whose lives were sadly shortened but whose legacy remain.”she said.
Today, Dues is working for the East Timor Development Agency that focuses on the development of Timorese Human Resouces.
This is just two of the stories of successful women’s struggles. This alone gave strength and inspiration to the delegates. Sarojeni Rengam, executive director of the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP) in Malysia said, “the opportunity to hear the stories of women’s struggles is very useful. Some are successful, some are not but the struggle goes on. And hearing stories of those women who became part of the armed struggle inspired me a lot to continue working in the people’s movement.”
“Nakakatulong ang komperensiyang ito hindi lang sa pagtaas ng ating kaalaman kundi makapagbibigay rin ng inspirasyon na hindi lang tayo ang kumikilos, hindi lang tayo ang may forms of resistance.” (The conference is a great help not only in enriching our minds but also it inspires us to continue the struggle because we are not the only one struggling, we are not the only one with forms of resistance) said Luzviminda Ilagan, the representative of the Gabriela Women’s party in an interview.
She added “how women resist different kinds of crisis, how women undertake strategic steps to aquire justice, to attain whole humanity of their lives, we learned it here from the sharing with other women.”
Professor Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Women and Development Studies in University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman read an inspiring poem by Gelacio Guillermo:
“Kung kami’y magkakapit – bisig, hindi ka ba nangangamba?/ Libo – libo kami, milyon – milyon, tumutugon sa panawagan / Ng mga kapatid naming nanumpa sa isang dakilang simulain./ Makinig ka’t manginig sa galit na umaalingawngaw sa aming tinig!” / (If we joined arms together, are you not afraid? / There are thousands and thousands of us answering / The call of our sisters/brothers sworn to one noble cause./ Listen and shudder at the howling anger of our great voice!) # nordis.net