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An Invitation to the Public for International Working Women’s Month 2022

The Cordillera Women’s Education, Action Research Center (CWEARC) Inc. in partnership with various women’s organizations, academic institutions in Luzon, people’s organizations and barangay local government units in Baguio City and non-government organizations is pleased to invite the public to a series of activities in support of women’s rights and welfare this entire month of March. This is on the occasion of International Working Women’s Month 2022.

CWEARC highly appreciates the partnership and participation of 109 partner organizations, institutions and individuals. Some partners are newly formed women’s organizations in barangays of Baguio City, who expressed that their participation was also to learn from other participating organizations as they launch their own activities in the barangay level. Some of the partners are academic institutions working for the protection and promotion of human rights, such as Time’s Up Ateneo and UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights. The activities range from a local women’s trade fair to be held at the Indigenous Peoples Center in Baguio City, various webinars, workshops, cultural programs, publications, radio programs, and interactive online games on women’s rights and wellbeing, and a candidates’ online forum with national and local women candidates.

We invite the public to participate in the events for Women’s Month, which will take place offline and online. CWEARC will release a calendar of activities today, followed by the specific event publicity materials. 

Honoring women human rights defenders in the Cordillera

In commemoration of International Women Human Rights Day (November 29), the 16-Day Campaign to End Violence against Women (IDEVAW) and International Human Rights Day (December 10), the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action Research Center (CWEARC) together with the Women Working for Justice and Peace (JAPNET)  organized a tribute to women human rights defenders in the Cordillera  on December 12, 2021. The tribute honored Women of Courage  for their steadfast commitment for indigenous peoples’ rights, women’s rights and social justice in the  region. The  event especially paid tribute to pioneers and women elders of the women’s movement in the Cordillera, and their exemplary, undisputed services to the Cordillera peoples in their struggle towards self-determination and defense of their land, rights and resources. Dearly departed women of courage who, in their lifetime, offered their unwavering services to the cause of the Cordillera peoples were also remembered and honored.

May we be continue to draw strength and inspiration from their fortitude to withstand and overcome the challenges of the times!

Kicking off women’s month with women’s harvest, art, and artisanship

Cordillera Women’s Education, Action Research Center, (CWEARC) Inc. launched Paglilikha Art Exhibit and Binnadang Para Isnan Kataguan Trade Fair on March 8 in celebration of International Women’s Month. The two simultaneous activities that showcase Cordillera women’s harvest, art, and artisanship lasts for a month. The events are guided by the theme “Babbai Ti Kordilyera, Sumikad Para Iti Daga, Karbengan, Pangkabiagan Ken Salun-at (Women of the Cordillera rise for land, rights, livelihood and well-being).”

‘Binnadang’ through a trade fair

Binnadang Para Isnan Kataguan aims to provide a venue for indigenous women farmers and artisans from the different provinces to market their products since their livelihood have been struck hard by the pandemic. Products from the women farmers are incredibly the best-sellers at the trade fair. Among them are white beans grown by community women of Kalinga.  Another product that seemed to get sold out the fastest is the organic honey harvested from the forests of Abra.

Meanwhile, coffee beans grown and roasted by farmers in Kalinga are arguably an attention-grabber at the venue, thanks to its aroma and reasonable price. Aside from fresh produce products, wine made from fruits such as santol, ube, dragon fruit, orange, bugnay, pineapple, and rambutan from Apayao and Kalinga are also on display.

On the other hand, the non-consumable products at the fair are crafts from local women artisans. Colorful inabel woven by women weavers of Bontoc, Mt. Province are displayed along with bags, purses and vests sewn by weavers of Kabayan, Benguet. Some visitors and shoppers even pointed out that the bags are offering a great deal for its great quality. Integrating modern aesthetics, hand-crafted earrings made from thread and polymer clay, and recycled notebooks are also being sold at the fair.

Other available products are organic soap, citronella ointment, turmeric tea, rice wine, chili paste, and squash pancit canton.

Paglilikha, women’s stories

The Paglilikha Art Exhibit provided local artists to showcase (and sell) their artworks as they are among those adversely affected by the pandemic. The exhibit features a total of 40 artworks from 30 local artists who exhibited individual as well as community stories revolving around the Cordillera women’s struggle for land, rights, livelihood, and well-being. One artwork by artist Chris Tatoy entitled “The Echoes of Time” shows a painting of an elderly indigenous woman surrounded by figures of younger women in tapis. The artist shares: “The art depicts the bravery of Cordillera women in fighting not just for their right[s] but for the rights of the next generation. In protection of their livelihood, families (which they value the most) and the future of Cordillera.”

The works of local women artists Kelly Ramos, Brenda Subido-Dacpano, Luchie Maranan and Liza Ilagan are also displayed in the exhibit.

The trade fair and art exhibit are activities that can contribute in helping women farmers and artisans in communities, especially those in the interior villages, to get back on their feet even if their livelihoods remain affected by restrictions and lockdowns. The trade fair offers a better trading conditions as proceeds of the sales of the products will go directly to the consignors.  Some artisans have also committed a part of the sales of their products to support the urgent medical expenses of women human rights defender in the Cordillera.

Every purchase will be of great help to many women in communities in the Cordillera so make sure not to miss out on these local products while they are still available! The trade fair and art exhibit will continue to run until the end of March at the IP Center, CEPMO Bldg., Burnham Park.

Reminders to shoppers and visitors:

  1. Always wear your facemasks and face shields.
  2. Always maintain physical distancing.
  3. Refrain from touching the products. You may ask assistance from the staff members.
  4. Do not touch the artworks.
  5. Bring your own market bags

CWEARC denounces PNP red tagging on Facebook

Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center, Inc. (CWEARC) denounces the red tagging and vilification of the Philippine National Police (PNP) through its Facebook pages “Pnp Rmfb Wolverines” and “Kapulisan ng Kalinga” on CWEARC’s campaign to support the frontliners in our country’s battle against the COVID-19 virus.

On March 31, 2020, both pages posted a publication material that blatantly red tagged CWEARC. PNP grabbed CWEARC’s #TieARedRibbon poster and accused the campaign as a deceptive strategy of organizations affiliated with terrorist groups to ask for donations that they claim will not reach the frontliners. In this manner, the PNP is identifying CWEARC as an affiliate organization of terrorist groups, specifically the CPP-NPA/NDF.

CWEARC is a grassroots-oriented, non-profit, non-government development organization that provides support to various Cordillera women’s formations, particularly indigenous women’s groups, in organizing, educating and providing direct social and economic support services. It was established on March 8, 1987 by indigenous peasant women, urban poor, workers, youth, professionals, and women from religious institutions. This year, it celebrates its 33 years of building the capacity of Cordillera women in upholding their rights and welfare.

17 days since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), public and private hospitals still struggle to provide extensive services to both patients and non-patients of COVID-19 and at the same time, provide sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their health workers and volunteers. With the lack of support for our health workers and volunteers, we have seen them face the COVID-19 battle unprotected and now, many of them have succumbed to the virus.

As a result, individuals and organizations all over the country launched the Tie A Red Ribbon campaign in support of COVID-19 frontliners and in recognition of the selflessness of those who have perished. CWEARC then published a poster on its Facebook page on March 26, 2020 to encourage everyone to join the campaign by tying a red ribbon outside their homes. The said post never asked for donations of any kind. Its only purpose is to boost our frontliners’ morale and to show them that we are one with them in demanding proper decisive government action to fight this pandemic.

CWEARC stresses that the campaign is a gesture to support our frontliners and it is not an act to aid terrorist groups. The posts of the PNP are highly deplorable! It tarnishes the purpose of the campaign and the organization, and has the malicious intent of vilifying CWEARC. When an individual or organization is vilified, they become open targets of various forms of human rights violat

ions. In this time of a global pandemic, the PNP still finds time to shamelessly vilify legitimate organizations that are initiating programs for the benefit of our country. For an institution that should “Serve and Protect” its constituents, instilling fear on organizations and the community is utterly irresponsible. Instead of wasting productive time, we call on them to redirect their indiscriminate red-tagging campaign resources to more appropriate actions in line with their mandate. Where is your solidarity with the frontliners of COVID-19?

CWEARC will not be daunted by the PNP’s baseless and malicious accusations. We will persist on raising our voices and forward the demands of the nation to directly address the current international health emergency. We will carry on to be in solidarity with variou

s networks in actively giving aid to indigenous communities and groups adversely affected by the current crisis in the Cordillera. In fact, CWEARC is exerting efforts presently to support our frontliners and vulnerable sectors, as many organizations and individuals are doing presently.

We give our highest salute to fallen health workers and volunteers. May you all rest in power. To our health workers and volunteers who continue to persist in this battle, we send our prayers.

Kasiyana, we shall overcome!

Reclaim the Genuine Tradition of International Women’s Day

March 8 of every year, International women’s day is celebrated by women all over the world. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day during the promulgation of International Women’s Year in 1975. By 1977, the United Nations General Assembly called on its member states to declare March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. For the UN and member states, this day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

March 8, women’s day, however was originally international working women’s day. Before UN countries began adopting this as women’s day in 1975, it was already being celebrated for decades by socialist movements and states in some parts of the globe. And it started as a political undertaking by women against the despotic rule of the Tsar of Russia in the early 1900’s and the struggle of working-class women for better pay and working conditions.

In 1910, over a hundred women from 17 countries united and proposed a women’s day at the second conference of working women in Copenhagen in Denmark. Clara Zetkin of the German Social Democratic Party proposed the idea of an International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) to underscore the particular oppression being suffered by women, especially women of the toiling masses and emphasised the distinct struggle of women in society. For the delegates in the conference, it meant promoting not just women’s right to vote, but labor legislations for working women, social services for mothers and children, equal treatment of single mothers, provisions of child care facilities, distribution of free meals and free educational facilities in schools and also working women’s international solidarity.

Resulting from this conference, on March 19, 1911, the first celebrations of International Women’s Day were held in Austria, Denmark and Germany where more than a million women and men attended mass mobilizations calling for women’s rights to work and training, to vote, to hold public office and for an end to discrimination against women. Small towns and village halls were reported to be jam-packed. Male workers were asked to vacate their places to give way to women. For a change, men stayed home to take care of their children while their wives attended women initiated activities and meetings. It was said to be the first expression of militancy by working women. A large mobilization of 30,000 was stopped by the police forces where they attempted to confiscate the banners on women’s demands, but the activists stood their ground.

A few days after these events, on March 25, 145 women workers were killed mostly young, non-english speaking migrants when a shirtwaist factory in New York City burned down. There were suspicions that it was deliberate for the factory’s exit-points were not in place or properly constructed and many believed that the company just wanted to collect its fire-insurance policy. The company also had a notorious background of being anti-worker. This incident resulted to massive protests by women workers which brought about legislations for better working conditions in factories, a big victory for working women.

Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 however only took place in 1914, considered as the fourth celebration of International Women’s day that was a massive mass action against the imperialist war which erupted a few months later.

In 1917, it was even more significant because the day marked the outset of the Russian revolution, where working women played a lead role in the uprising.

Today, almost all nations are celebrating International Women’s Day. Regrettably, many celebrations of March 8 – international women’s day has not been the same. There are those which have already disregarded its original political and militant character. In fact, even companies had come to use this event for advertising and promoting their products, thus commercializing the celebration which completely contravenes its essence. Government-states on the other hand come up with annual celebrations vaguely extoling women’s achievements without actually looking into the real conditions of majority of the women who remain poor and marginalized. Many now disregard and have actually stripped off the real essence behind celebrating IWWD.

In celebrating March 8 this year, we remember our sisters during the first celebrations of IWWD a century ago who took on the tasks of putting forward the real issues that women struggle for. Women are not just fighting for gender parity. Equality between the sexes stays meaningless if women remain impoverished, exploited, oppressed and deprived of their well-being together with the men of their class.

What significance is there for gender equality if the majority of women and men both suffer from social injustice, of not being able to sufficiently nourish their families because of lack of employment opportunities or stable jobs; of being forced to leave their families to work overseas only to be abused and maltreated; of receiving sub-standard wages while corporations profit from their labour; of being unable to seek basic social services such as health and education because of government’s misprioritization and corruption in the bureaucracy; of not having any decent homes or clothing to protect them while a few live lavishly at the expense of the poor; of continually being deprived of their lands and resources because of corporate plunder and greed? If women will be equal to men under these conditions, then what have they achieved? Nothing at all substantial.

Certainly, women must still fight for gender equality and work against the discrimination of women because these are rightful concerns that women currently still face. It is also the very reason why there is a distinct movement being advanced by women. But let it be said that the quest for equality is not synonymous to fighting men, for men are not the problem per se. Instead, it is a battle against the structures in society that perpetuate the oppression of women that has its origins in our colonial past and is being perpetuated by the status quo. The struggle being waged is then directed at those who maintain the system of domination not only by men over women but more importantly the ruling class that exploits majority of the toiling masses. It is to their benefit that they maintain this arrangement because it obscures our perception from the fundamental issues in society.

In this situation, how then must women’s struggles be waged? Women of the oppressed classes must work hand in hand with men of their class for a truly just, free and democratic society and to guarantee that their fundamental needs are met and within it work for gender equality and an end to the discrimination of women. It is only then when we can genuinely say that women’s subordinate status in society would have been substantially addressed.

1. International Women’s Day. Women Watch. https://womenwatch.unwomen.org/international-womens-day-history
2. The Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day, Cintia Frencia/Daniel Gaido, JACOBIN ; https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/international-womens-day-clara-zetkin-working-class-socialist
3. International Women’s Day, Socialist Worker.org. March 8 2013 https://socialistworker.org/2013/03/08/international-womens-day
4. March 25,1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, HISTORY, 2009 http///www.history.com/this-day-in-history/triangle-shirtwaist-fire-in-new-york-city