When resistance is met by force.
When resistance is met by force. : A boy with burns clings on to his mother after a fire broke inside the compound where hundreds of indigenous peoples are seeking refuge. The fire is believed to have been deliberately set to harass the internally displaced Lumads. (c) MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

I believe that a woman’s life is a story of constant struggle for respect, equality and emancipation. Women suffer from oppression in varying forms and in different spheres of her life. Some experience different layers of oppression more so than the others. Oppression and discrimination also takes place at the intersection of her gender and class, her gender and ethnicity, her gender and age, her gender and her access to resources such as technology, among others.

I am a woman from a middle class background, has a university degree, and has a job. I have my opinions and able to express them. Yet despite this sense of empowerment, I am not free from experiencing violence. I was once threatened by a male co-worker, for the simple reason I had the unfortunate sense to remind him to lock the door behind him since he was the last one to arrive and we were not expecting anyone else that night to arrive in the apartment that served as our staff house. He told me I had no right to tell him what to do, and while backing me into a corner he made a hand gesture across his neck while reminding me he could easily get rid of me. The organization addressed the issue right away and removed the male co-worker (I was never informed if he was fired or transferred location). But during the case of the investigation, I was repeatedly told by many co-workers, mostly women, “Maybe you were out of line” and that the male co-worker complained that he finds me very ‘bossy’ at work. At first glance, the incident may sound isolated. But I believe that the incident is a telling sign of stereotyping that women suffer from. If I were a man and older, he wouldn’t have treated me that way. If I were a man, my assertiveness would have been hailed as ‘leadership.’ but I am a woman and young, so I am ‘bossy’. As women, we grew up expected to be polite and soft, and when we deviate from that expectations we are branded as ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’, which in turn society justifies violence against us.  

If I woman with relative empowerment as I am suffer from this type of discrimination, imagine the struggles of women from more marginalized sectors such as the Lumads or the indigenous women from the southern part of the Philippines were I came from. The Lumads are the ‘natives’ whose communities existed and flourished long before the colonial period in the country. They may be the first people in the land, but they have been pushed off from their ancestral domains for many decades and historically have suffered from discrimination. I grew up hearing the term ‘native’ used as a stigma—denoting being illiterate, uncivilised. The communities of Lumads sit in vast natural deposits. Large commercial mining companies came and exploited the land. Resistance among Lumads steadily grew. So did the militarization of their once peaceful communities.

The intensified militarization in their communities pushed Lumad women and their families to flee their communities and to stay in evacuation centers in the cities. Despite the validity of their resistance, they are sometimes portrayed as weak pawns used for propaganda by anti-government organizations. They are stigmatised as uneducated people who have no capacity to form their own opinions and determine their own path of development. 

Just recently, news broke that the temporary shelter where the Lumads are taking refuge in was gutted down by fire and five people were hurt, mostly women and children.[1] Just to show how women’s assertion of their rights is always answered by violence.

Reflecting on my personal experiences and learning that of the experiences of other women in my community, endeavors me to continue using my voice to amplify the voice of others. Some of us have relative privileges such as access to education, media and audience that many other women don’t have. But despite their lack of resources, women from marginalized sectors have their own voices and they can speak for themselves, given the space and opportunity. Though indigenous women have been the subject of different media stories, they are usually portrayed as the ‘exotic’ others and needs saving. However, as the experience of the Lumad women from my community tells us, they are capable of self-determination and resistance. And now it is time their stories to be told and shown, in their voices and through their own eyes.

[1] See http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/02/24/5-lumads-hurt-in-fire-at-evacuation-center/

 

 

Comments

Chris,

Thank you for sharing your reflections on layers of oppression. You point out issues that I have often grappled with as well. I have priviledges that other women do not have, so how do I speak up for someone (or about an issue I am seeing in my community), but not speak for them or instead of them? Listening to the voices of those closest to the issue is essential, and it sounds like your own values fit very well with World Pulse's value of Voice - making sure that women are telling their own stories. 

I look forward to learning more about your work with the Lumad community - although I do not know much about the Lumads, it sounds like their story is sadly very similar to the story of indigenous people around the world (including in the U.S.). 

In solidarity,

Stephanie

Thank you Steph! I couldn't help sometimes second guess myself when I am writing about issues of other women that I myself have not experienced. Thanks for the encouraging words!

Your Story is similiar to many of the indigenous people around the world. Many lose their way of life as globalisation erodes what they are used too and most often, they react by fighting back. Also, the reaction of your male colleague shows how insecured some men can be in the presence of an assertive woman. They use bullying and violence to intimidate. Sadly, many women because of social constructs find an assertive woman bossy and pushy. It is good to see you use your opportunities and voice to give other women a voice. Thank you for sharing, Arrey

Arrey

Than you, Arrey! yes, i've learned about the stories of indigenous people in other countries who are facing displacement because of the aggresive "development" agenda imposed in their communities. I hope to be able to connect the story of the indigenous community here in my country to that of the issues in other parts of the world. 

Hi Chris,

Thank you for sharing your personal story on the oppression you have faced in your community and the oppression that you see the Lumad community facing in your country.

I admire your courage to speak up when you felt threatened by your male co-worker-- if we don't speak up for ourselves in these situations, we will never see the social change that we are moving towards. It's disappointing that your other co-workers doubted your decision to report the harrassment, but I hope that it sparked something for them that will empower them to do the same in future situations. 

Having read a couple of your other posts on the Lumad community, I am grateful that you have chosen to share their story with us, and that you believe that they can make their voices heard and advocate for themselves. I have been reflecting on the truth your last paragraph: "But despite their lack of resources, women from marginalized sectors have their own voices and they can speak for themselves, given the space and opportunity." I am really looking forward to following you throughout this training and hearing more about the Lumad women's stories from their own voices.

Warm wishes,

Kaitlin

Thanks Kaitlin for the encouraging words. It really means a lot. I really want to support women who have become "voiceless" due to their lack of access to education, to the media and other channels to convey their stories.