March of women, march for freedom

No matter how blazing the heat of the sun could be, the International Women’s Day celebrations last March 8 was a resounding success. Chanting hymns and cheers of freedom, hundreds of activists, mostly women, gathered and marched from Welcome Rotonda to the historic Mendiola, where a program was held to commemorate the day when women were supposedly given a chance to be liberated.

Leading the march was the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Women (APL-Women) together with the Martsa ng Kababaihan coalition, the local counterpart of the World March of Women, a global networking of feminist and other grassroots organizations.

Coinciding with the IWD is the World March’s global campaign this year called the Third International Action, which include opposing the “privatization of nature and public services,” militarism, workplace discriminations, and all forms of violence against women (VAW).

Adopting that themes in the Philippines, the Martsa ng Kababaihan likewise called for fighting sexism, especially the discrimination based on gender or against women; the neoliberal trade policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that benefit only the corporate elites; the militarism that pervades the country and strangles the citizenry; and the corrupt and despotic regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

March 8 is indeed a cause for celebration for bringing the rights and experiences of women throughout the world out into the open. Cared for yet oppressed, dignified yet “commodified,” respected yet burdened: these contradictions represent the situation of women in society, whether from memories of a distant past or from the realities of the present. The twin problems of “violence” and “poverty” continue to exist to the detriment of women. Inside the family and in the society, violence against women is still rampant, and the many laws created to address the plight of every woman have remained largely not enforced. Thus, organized Filipino women must persevere on organizing and expanding their ranks to ensure the establishment of a genuine gender-fair society.

Prior to the IWD celebrations, a women’s electoral forum sponsored by LEARN and APL was held March 1 at the LEARN Workers’ House, which was participated in by 54 women activists from several APL member organizations as well as from other sister groups.

Highlighted here was the need for women to push for “women’s agenda” that must be supported and implemented by local and national candidates for them to gain the vote and cooperation of women’s organizations and their allies, particularly APL-Women.

Other issues discussed were the procedures and problems in the Comelec’s first automated voting, the LEARN and APL’s continued backing of the Akbayan party list, and their endorsement of the senatorial bid of Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros.

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