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Women Leading Responses in the Philippines

  • JASS

During this year’s One Day, One Voice—JASS Southeast Asia’s annual regional campaign mobilizing women activists and groups from 6 countries to end violence against women, JASS -Philippines held a discussion and fundraising event themed, “Kadna na, Pagburublig Kita” (Come, Let Us Help Each Other) in honor Typhoon Haiyan survivors on the 4th of December in Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. Typhoon Haiyan, touted as the strongest typhoon to hit the globe this year, ravaged Eastern Visayas and several other regions and provinces in the Philippines and has affected 11 million people to date, with casualties now nearing 6,000. The event provided participants with a unique understanding of the impact of the disaster from the perspective of women—who struggle to provide food and shelter to their families and helped to recover and create a much needed opportunity for them—the victims—to begin to heal.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, women are often the most vulnerable. We saw when typhoon Ketsana hit this community (Barangay Bagong Silangan) in 2009 that despite the grave effects, women have the strong will to survive not only for themselves but for their children and for the whole community. Despite the trauma from the disaster, women are slowly rising above these challenges. ~ Jacqueline “Jac” Ruiz, psychologist from the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)

Through “Come, Let Us Help Each Other”, JASS Philippines created a space in which women—all united by the common fear and anxiety in the wake of this terrifying disaster—came together to support each other to survive, heal and begin rebuilding their communities. “We should all work together. We should formulate strategies to prepare us for disasters like this. We should form organizations and organize everyone—men, women, and children. Our focus here is collective action. There is no other solution to poverty and other problems that exacerbate poverty—but our unity,” says Inocenta Wenceslao of Samahan ng Maralitang kababaihang Nagkakaisa (SAMAKANA or Organization of United Urban Poor Women).

Mobilizing Resources

The JASS global community also helped to mobilize support at the national and regional levels. Donations have been pouring in—the first wave of funding helped support last month’s relief and rehabilitation mission in the hardest hit areas in the Eastern Visayas region. JASS-Philippines’ Manila-based organizations conducted and participated in various initiatives including—a discussion forum on violence against women in the aftermath of the typhoon, a photo exhibit in the halls of Congress and in one urban poor community (Barangay Bagong Silangan), calling attention to the relief effort in the gay pride parade, marches on International Human Rights Day events to help pack and sort relief goods, and relief and rehabilitation missions for typhoon survivors.

“JASS’ support and solidarity is helping to restore the strength of the survivors. Many activists and organizations that joined the JASS-Philippines’ movement building institute in 2009 such as Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), GABRIELA, SAMAKANA, Women’s Studies and Resource Center (WSRC), NNARA Youth, Workers Assistance Center (WAC) are actively taking part in the relief and rehabilitation process led by LINGAP Gabriela. The Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) and the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) are also initiating relief efforts,” says Mary Joan “Jojo” Guan who’s the Filipina representative on JASS Southeast Asia’s Regional Coordinating Group (RCG).  

Amidst the mobilization of support from activists, the government’s response has been going at a slow pace, prompting citizens to come together to strategize on how to better prepare for disasters like this in the future, including holding the government accountable.

“We should not be afraid to criticize the government and to call its attention for its inaction in the wake of disasters. It is government’s responsibility to look after the well-being of the people, especially in times of disaster. We didn’t see it happen in typhoon Ketsana in 2009 and we are not seeing it now in typhoon Haiyan. That is why in 2009 we formed our own alliance—the Pinagsamang Lakas ng Mahihirap sa Bagong Silangan or PLMBS (Collective Strength of the Poor in Bagong Silangan)—so we could help each other out in times of disasters,” says Inocenta Wenceslao of SAMAKANA and PLMBS.

The regional One Day, One Voice campaign—in addition to spotlighting and educating Southeast Asia about the problem of violence against women—also served as a lifeline of support to the many allies in the Philippines, demonstrating how solidarity is a critical relief strategy in times of crisis.

 Photo Credit: Pictures of Leyte province taken by Pher Pasion, Pinoy Weekly


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