By UB-UBBON DI BINABAI AD IFUGAO
LAGAWE, Ifugao – For the love of Ifugao and for the young generations, women came together on the 25th of July this year to form a provincial women’s organization that binds their efforts to nurture and defend their homeland. It was named Ub-ubbon di Binabai ad Ifugao (UBI) or the “collective work of the women of Ifugao”.
More than 60 women from the six municipalities of Ifugao, namely Lagawe, Hingyon, Banawe, Hungduan, Lamut, and Tinoc arrived at the Hope Bible Community Church of this town carrying their pressing issues that include corporate energy projects, human rights, and agricultural issues. The women resolved that it is only in uniting as one organization that women can be stronger in asserting their rights as women, as peasants, and as indigenous peoples.
Women from Tinoc spoke vividly of how their rights as indigenous peoples continue to be violated in the name of corporate interests. Sherly Gawi reported how their rights have been been fooled during the process of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). She narrated that until today, harassments, threats, and intimidation are experienced by their leaders who are actively opposing the hydroelectric power project of Quadriver.
Gawi was trying to maintain her composure when she shared that she and other community leaders in Tinoc who are opposed to the project are publicly maligned by tagging them as supporters and members of the New Peoples Army. They are even branded as anti-development. She added that social media, specifically Facebook, is now being used to attack their integrity as peoples and the integrity of the peasant organization that has been part of their struggle, the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM).
Meanwhile, in the municipalities of Lamut, and Lagawe, the participants expressed their fears once the huge Alimit dam project succeeds to operate. They fear that the water sources for their farms will be sacrificed. As mothers, they are worried of how their children would survive when their water is controlled by a corporation. They expressed their loss of hope to protect their land because they know that SN Aboitiz, which is applying for the 380 MW hydroelectric power project, is impossible to defeat. Other municipalities spoke of scarce social services on health, education, and agriculture. During the workshop, one group realized that their dire situation is used as a tool for political patronage by the elite.
Meanwhile, one of the alarming situations in most municipalities is the increasing incidence of rape, especially incestuous rape. The delegates of the assembly revealed that there are many cases which are not documented because they are settled amicably. Some are not even reported because of the culture of shame.
With the pressing issues faced by women and their communities, the delegates saw the need for solidarity of women at the provincial level. In this manner, they said, they can support one another in activities that will advance their welfare. Moreover, the women can gather wider support from the public even at the regional and national levels. In the formulation of UBI’s general program of actions, they have identified their needs for empowerment including educational discussions on women and children’s rights, Anti-violence against women and children, indigenous peoples rights, free, prior and informed consent, and human rights.
Virginia Ambaliwon, the elected chairperson of UBI in her closing remarks said that it is high time that a provincial women’s organization is set to become an avenue of solidarity and forging unities among the women of Ifugao. She challenged the women of Tinoc to stay strong and forge stronger unity among their ranks. She assured the women of Tinoc that UBI will support every move that Tinoc people will conduct related to the hydroelectric project. She also challenged the women affected by the Alimit dam project to never lose hope and gather strength from the solidarity of the members of UBI. Women as stewards of the creation, Ambaliwon mentioned, should unite and help one another in defending the land and resources that nurture life. “This will be an honourable legacy that we will pass on to our children,” she added.
The provincial assembly was organized by Innabuyog, a regional alliance of indigenous women’s organizations and Ifugao Peasant Movement, a provincial alliance of peasant organizations. #nordis.net