Nov 25 has been recognized by the United Nations as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, yet systemic inequality, abuse and attacks on women and children have persisted.
Gantala Press, a feminist small press that organizes solidarity work with grassroots women, on Nov 29 held “Lumilikha! Lumalaban! Mga Tula at Awit ng Pag-Alma,” an online cultural event to call for an end to violence against women and children (VAWC).
In the Philippines, this violence has been worsened by the administration’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More women have been reported to have suffered domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and military abuses in the provinces.
In solidarity with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign which started on Nov 25 and will end on Dec 10 (International Human Rights Day), more than 25 participants in the Gantala event shared poems, created art and staged different performances.
Female rapper Peaceful Gemini’s “Hands Off” and “Warrior Princess” opened the event, followed by migrant Ka Rosario who sang “Oyayi sa Mundo” by Buklod. Gantala Press also delivered a global strike manifesto, while Atty. Twyla Rubin of the Center for Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights performed spoken poetry on the state of Filipino women from different periods of Philippine history.
Agatha Canape, one of the hosts of the event, pointed out that the performances shared by mother and daughter Yllang and Anda Montenegro mirrored the resistance fought by women from two generations. The plight of women in communities outside Metro Manila was meanwhile represented by poetry performed in their local languages.
An online cultural program to end violence against women and children
In a rage-filled monologue, Jasmine Cruz from Time’s Up Ateneo, also expressed the frustrations of women who encountered sexual violence in what should be safe spaces like schools and universities.
Project Inclusivity premiered an animation on monsters who creep into women’s lives, a video that included a remote interpretation for the deaf. Tao Aves and Alyana Cabral meanwhile sang about state-perpetrated violence and attacks on women.
Towards the end of the program, Julz Riddle and Cutely Ann Rosada shared the possibility of creating and imagining a better world by translating poems in Filipino and performing dances. Marites Nicart read poetry that pictured three decades of legal resistance from peasant women against developers who attempt to grab their lands. Members of Amihan Women and Lupang Ramos, peasant women fighting for genuine land reform, sang “Buhay at Bukid”.
The poetry, songs and dances performed in the event emphasized the rich participation of women in cultural work. They reminded the audience of how the various contributions of women in the arts need to be recognized and given platforms instead of being silenced. Women’s stories need to be articulated to expose their multiple roles in society, including the often undervalued work of taking care of the household. The event also highlighted that women’s emancipation can only be attained if women from different sectors join the collective struggle of the marginalized.