Women of Faith, Rise for Rights, Truth, and Good Governance!

Ecumenical Women’s Forum Statement On International Women’s Day 2022

Thus says the LORD: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

March 8, 2022, marks the 45th annual observance of the UN International Women’s Day. We celebrate the accomplishments of women in various cultural, political, and socioeconomic milieus worldwide. Women struggled and continue to struggle for liberation from gender-based violence and oppression. The movement for women’s rights continues. On this momentous day, we salute the movement of working women who first declared a women’s day of protest for better wages and freedom from hazardous working conditions in 1908. Eventually adopted by the United Nations in recognition of women’s rights in 1977, International Women’s day continues to bring together women from different countries to assert women’s rights in patriarchal and male-dominated societies as well as to celebrate women’s achievements.

We honor the strength and greatness of women through the ages and recognize their indispensable and significant contributions in culturally, socio-economically, and politically advancing and reforming societies toward justice and equality. We celebrate their collective vision, courage, persistence, and struggle. It is in this spirit that we seek to emulate the determination of those who have come before us so that we too can contribute to the struggle for a more just, compassionate, and equitable society. It is in this spirit that we welcome the leadership of the youth and encourage them to bring our efforts to new heights.

In the Philippines, women have suffered for generations under an abusive and exploitative patriarchal system with feudal relationships, even today, this patriarchy is abetted through neoliberal economic policies that push unfettered liberalization, deregulation, and privatization; as part of the toiling majority, the oppression of women is further worsened with gender-based discrimination, maltreatment, and unequal access to opportunities. Under the state neglect of President Rodrigo Duterte, violence against women has intensified and economic and political conditions have worsened. Even more, Filipino women are reeling from the effects of a corruption-laden, unscientific, and militaristic government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Duterte has proven himself as a macho-fascist of the worst kind, hurling gendered insults and threats against his female critics. His sexualized and misogynistic tirades emboldened others of his ilk to strengthen a culture of misogyny in Philippine governance. Many women leaders—champions of justice—were demeaned, insulted, vilified, red-tagged, and judicially harassed because of their stand for social justice, democracy and human rights. Some of these courageous women’s rights defenders include:

Sr. Mary John Mananzan, an outspoken champion of women’s equality and liberty

Sr. Patricia Fox, activist missionary and workers and peasants rights activist;

Maria Ressa, journalist fighting for truth and press freedom; and,

Bai Bibyaon, indigenous elder defending her people and ancestral lands from development aggression and militarization in Mindanao.

Even women from the ranks of the government have been attacked. Senator Leila De Lima, a strong critic against Duterte’s sham ‘drug war,’ is still a political prisoner. Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago has continued to ably speak on the issues of the youth, even as she experiences vicious online red-tagging, harassment and trolling. Even Vice-President Leni Robredo has weathered various forms of harassment and verbal abuse, as she continued the work her office and delivered services to poor communities.

The struggle for the respect of women’s rights and leadership continues.

With the national election drawing near, we recall that women’s suffrage was also a hard-won victory. The spirit of those who championed voting rights for women should inspire us, as we defend the May polls and exercise our right to vote. This is a moment to rise for rights, truth and good governance.

We must discern which candidates will uphold the rights and welfare of women, girls, and LGBTQ persons and will work to end gender-based violence and oppression in the Philippines. We will choose those who can lead our nation towards sound economic and political agendas as well as the emancipation of the oppressed classes and sectors in our society. During this age of disinformation, we will be a voice for truth, exposing the corruption and thievery in our history as well as monitoring the transparency of the election process. We must synergize collective wisdom and inspire common hope for peace, justice, democracy and fullness of life for the Filipino people.

As women of faith, we pledge to resist the forces of patriarchy and oppression. Pursuing socially equitable and gender-affirming communities, where the contributions and participation of women, girls, and LGBTQ persons are celebrated, we will rise up to assert our rights. We also pray earnestly for the full equality of women and men in the Church. The struggle for women’s rights is part of the advancement of peoples’ rights. We will defend the rights of the Filipino people and work for the common good. ##

08 March 2022