Women Over Profit? Activists Say No!


WASHINGTON (03-04) – Women’s Rights activists descended upon the Philippine Embassy on March 4 during a march calling for major reforms for the country. The march was held after the first day of a political conference sponsored by the International Women’s Alliance, an anti-imperialist alliance of grassroots  women’s organizations, institutions and individuals who are calling for reforms.

Carrying large banners and signs the group rallied by blocking the street outside the embassy where speakers called for an end to exploitation and the liberation of all oppressed people while bringing attention to the Philippine government’s “negligence over the well-being of its people.” The groups are also opposed to the ongoing exploitation of women and workers, imperialism and the continued militarism both domestically and by the U.S. whom they accuse of enforcing American hegemony at the island nation’s expense.

“Women Over Profit” as the action was named was also organized by the Philippine-based women’s movement, General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Education, Leadership, and Action (GABRIELA USA). The group was named in honor of Gabriela Silang the first Filipino woman who briefly led the Ilocano Independence revolt in 1763 against the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Her heroism and execution as a martyr in the independence movement has both inspired and empowered Philippine women ever since.

For millions of Filipinos over many decades, oppressive, subsistence and low paying jobs at home have forced them to leave the islands to seek employment and decent wages overseas at the expense of their families who remain behind. This diaspora has affected women greatly in not being able to raise their own children while away from their families, sometimes for decades. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2021 there were an estimated 1.83 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

And for those women who have remained behind while their husbands are overseas, it has been particularly difficult, too, as they continue raising children while shouldering all the related responsibilities of family life. One protester held a sign in Tagalog saying, “Sahood Itaas Presyo Ibaba”( raise wages, lower prices) in a plea for better working wages at home to end the economic disparity and keep families together.

Another protester held a sign relating to the recently proposed constitutional convention to amend the 1987 constitution by calling for sovereignty over charter changes. With the country’s economic freedom rated as 89th out of 176 countries, activists are leery of the real motives behind legislators’ call for such a change.

Activists are highly doubtful that the proposals to delete of all the constitution’s present economic provisions in favor of what has been characterized as “reforms needed to attract more foreign capital,” will actually benefit the Philippine people. They instead believe that it will more than likely benefit and enrich foreign capitalists and those connected wealthy individuals instead.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) where marchers stopped on their way to the White House were labeled as being complicit in the economic disparity of the Philippines for their financial hold and trade policies in enriching monopolistic corporate interests and individuals. Activists referred to these policies as an enactment of “neoliberal” economic trade schemes. In support of that sentiment, one marcher held a sign to note he was a member of the Working-class Peoples Liberation Army.

Respective to the military and the favorable geographical position the Philippines enjoys and its effect on women in a possible conflict between the US and China, they noted that with an increase in military presence, women face “rape, assault and kidnappings.” This is a lesson learned during WWII with the Japanese occupation and fighting that many have never forgotten.

With China’s growing desire to “own” the South China Sea, and with US-China interests on an ever-descending course towards a possible conflict, the very real prospect of a proxy or outright war is increasing. In its long dominant interests in the area the US would buttress Philippine claims to the islands and reefs subjecting the island nation to even greater perils as “the US empire desperately tries to cling on to global domination.”

© 2023 nuzeink all rights reserved worldwide

Photo: Phil Pasquini

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.


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