By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — A grand fiesta-style celebration has been set for Gabriela’s 25th anniversary celebration.
“It is an achievement for Gabriela to have lasted this long, to have gained this organizational and influential strength in a country where a woman president has been shameless enough to spring from jail some of its most notorious rapists, and look the other way when others more are crying rape and harassment from government officials and visiting foreign troops,” said Emmi de Jesus, Gabriela’s secretary general.
Gabriela has come a long way in helping many women and contributing to their empowerment. In the process, Gabriela itself has gained many friends and members. It is now a nationwide alliance of 200 women’s organizations that cut across sectors and regions. It even has allied organizations in other countries.
It has achieved for itself a track record of service that “Isumbong mo sa Gabriela” (Go Tell it to Gabriela) has come to signify today the strong public confidence for the progressive women’s alliance. That calls for celebration, indeed, said de Jesus.
But she added that the recent typhoons that devastated the lives of many Filipinos especially the poor has tempered Gabriela’s silver anniversary fiesta with the “survivor spirit.” They will push through with the celebration because “Gabriela’s achievement for the Filipino women and children deserves to be celebrated.” But they will celebrate in a way that is inextricably linked with their members’ and most typhoon victims’ struggle for rehabilitation after the storms.
“We have won over so many storms, and we have come out fighting,” de Jesus told Bulatlat. In a statement, she also said “The storms, literally and figuratively, continue to batter Filipino women across time and yet, we have shown that we can only rely on our collective struggle to put forward the interest of marginalized Filipino women.”
Gabriela’s silver anniversary celebrations start with its 10th Congress from Oct 26 to 27. On Oct 28 they will lead an “all-women protest action” in Mendiola to push for their three “immediate demands:” Immediate and humane relief for victims; jobs, livelihood and safe and secure housing; and accountability from the Arroyo administration for its dismal response to the disaster.
In the afternoon of Oct. 28, a program with the theme “Go Forward Gabriela, Together Let Us All Rise Up” will be held at the Amoranto Stadium in Roces Avenue, Quezon City.
In Amoranto Gabriela will also host a tiangge, selling at low prices different products made by women from various Gabriela chapters.
On October 29, Gabriela will hold its national convention.
Raising the Survivor Spirit
De Jesus said the activities highlight the 25 years of Gabriela’s struggle for the interest of Filipino women and their families through organizing both at the local and international level, education, political action and services to women victims of violence.
“Our existence serves to emphasize the negligence and incapacity of the government to respond to the basic needs of its people,” she said.
Despite Gabriela’s achievements and popularity, de Jesus said they have only made a “dent” on issues of violence against women. True the progressive women’s alliance has raised the matter to the level of public consciousness but that is still not enough, said de Jesus.
“Gabriela continues to reverberate with voices of women struggling against violence,” de Jesus said. They report that rape, domestic abuse, incest, sex trafficking, discrimination, harassment and torture continue to blight women’s lives whether in this country or elsewhere. Despite the gains through women’s courage and collective will, the fight for justice remains exceedingly slow, they said.
In the Philippines, names such as Nicole, Vanessa, Katrina Halili and Ruby Rose Barrameda-Jimenez — celebrated cases that speak volumes about continuing women’s oppression — still cry out for justice.
In fighting violence against women, Gabriela stresses not just those perpetrated by individual men, but more significantly the violence perpetrated and protected by the state. Beyond high-profile cases are more cases of violence against ordinary women in factories, farms, schools, slums, offices and homes. Most of these can be traced to the government’s anti-people and anti-women policies that have resulted in increased vulnerability of women such that in times of crisis, they, together with their children, suffer the most,” de Jesus said.
In the face of government neglect, ineptitude and corruption, the Gabriela leader encourages women to remain vigilant. “For 25 years we have struggled through the storms of anti-people and anti-women policies of various governments. With the collective strength of women, we shall continue to do so even for another 25 years.” (Bulatlat.com)