Dear Mr. President
“We have waited long enough.” So begins an important letter to the new President of the Philippines written by JASS South East Asia and signed by 22 partner organizations and several prominent women’s rights activists. This letter is a testament to the tremendous organizing power of JASS in the region. The signatories make a series of specific demands to the new President on key economic, social, and political issues that affect Filipino women, including:
- “Repeal the neo-liberal policies that further impoverished women and their families;
- “Sign into law the Reproductive Health Bill… and…” Invest in Universal Health Care,” and;
- “Prosecute Arroyo (the outgoing President) and her cohorts for the numerous extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and political repression against Filipino women and their families.”
It concludes with a hopeful note indicating their optimism that President Aquino will indeed bring women’s rights back into the national agenda and an indication of their plan B if he doesn’t. “After the waiting comes the action, if not on your part, then ours.” While political engagement is nothing new to Filipino women who have achieved some of the most significant legislative victories of any country in the last 25 years*, the last 10 years dealing with a corrupt, violent and dysfunctional government has taken its toll on the Filipino feminist movement. Like Zimbabwe, partisan battles have created deep fissures throughout the Philippines famously activist civil society, fragmenting all movements and creating powerful divisions among women. Over the last two years, JASS Southeast Asia, led by the Filipina affiliates — has created safe political spaces for women of all ages to come together and to find common ground. Filipina activists have embraced JASS Philippines as an alternative platform that enables them to put aside past organizational and political differences to go forward.
* including a “gender budget” policy requiring local government to spend 5% on women, an all women political party and a law requiring all political parties to have 33% of their candidates be women.