This was presented by Vernie Yocogan-Diano to the Inter-disciplinary Conference on Mining in the Asia-Pacific on Nov. 26-28, 2007 at Quezon City, Philippines. — Ed
Forum for distressed women
In the Asia-Pacific and national consultation with the Special Rapporteur of Violence Against Women, Dr. Yakin Erturk, last September in Manila, Innabuyog presented the violence against indigenous brought by mining along with militarization of areas covered by mining projects.
Nida Cupatan Legaspi of Itogon, Benguet, strengthened earlier discussions on mining through her testimony— “Damage to traditional livelihood sources has been forcing local women to seek wage employment outside, including overseas. The children of some women who worked far away from home have become vulnerable to abuse by their fathers”.
In her own village, one woman who worked in the Middle East nearly killed her husband a couple of years ago when she came home and discovered that, in her absence, he had repeatedly raped their daughter.
A great number of women must seek odd jobs day to day, and accept even the smallest wages. Because of the uncertainty, they are always tensed and heavily stressed, and quite a number of them have succumbed to mental illness. Children are forced out of school due to the economic inability of families in the mined-out areas.
Women’s participation in community meetings has decreased significantly because they cannot afford to give up even a single day of work and wage. This has dire implications on decision-making in many villages in Itogon where women’s insights have always been important to deliberations on community issues, and in fact, women traditionally take on leaderhip roles.
A new experience that we are further advancing is building the solidarity between peasant communities and the workers, particularly in the struggle against the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. Women have been playing a key role to this effort, the indigenous peasant women in the communities and the wives of miners in the mine camps.
The common call is to stop the expansion operations of Lepanto given the amount of destruction it causes to the livelihood, environment, health and unity of communities, and pursuing the economic demands and occupational safety of the workers. The biggest support group of the workers in their last two labor strikes were the peasant communities and of course, the miners’ wives association (Timpuyog dagiti Babbai iti Minas ti Lepanto-TBML).
Building solidarity networks
Indigenous women in the Cordillera through Innabuyog weave these stories and experiences of struggle against large corporate mining with struggles of other women at the national level and overseas. A national network of indigenous women, BAI works with other mining struggle groups in the country.
At the Asia-Pacific level, we do so through the Women and Environment Task Force of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and helping coordinate for the International Women and Mining for the Asia area.
At the international level, our stories are shared with the International Women and Mining Network and with networks of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. How to make these networks be of stronger support to local struggles and how local struggles are raised at a wider level is a continuing area of discussion and work.
As we share these stories, we are inspired of similar stories. As we share these stories, more actions are thought of and more prepare themselves to the battle against large corporate mining.
Indeed, it is fighting the giants. Collaboration of the national government and its agencies with the mining corporations have become ever more stark. Our local women leaders say, “government and mining companies are truly barbaric, greedy and violent. Not only that, they are traitors, who accuse our legitimate and just actions as acts of terrorism”.
This is struggle where women address national patrimony , sovereignty of peoples to control our land and natural resources, self-determination, life and livelihood for the present and the future, dignity as women and as a people, and global justice. The unfading words of Macliing Dulag, a martyr of the Cordillera peoples’ movement is made more alive at this time where mining corporations are dictating power— “If we do not fight, we die anyway, if we fight, we die honorably”. There is no better action than to unite and to resist.#