Young daughters leaving for job… mothers grieving … fathers finding work… families living in tents, oil spill not completely cleaned up… death comes after another… voices raging and rising up…
These are the images of the communities I’m working with after six months of Typhoon Haiyan devastation. Nothing much had changed in the life of the disaster stricken communities. Relief assistance from international humanitarian aid had come to an end yet people are still longing for more. Government is constructing more roads for tourism rather than giving food and livelihood for the victims.
“We need to rise up from the devastation or else we will die with our eyes open due to hunger”, said a leader of Hugpong-Kababainhan (Women United).
“We must be heard to be recognized with our strong voices claiming our rights to be protected from disaster”, as she explained to the group about the organization.
Hugpong Kababainhan is a women organization of Typhoon Haiyan and oil spill affected communities of Estancia, Iloilo. We organized the group in February this year to empower them in demanding justice from the gross negligence committed by the government. In the midst of homelessness, hunger, diseases and helplessness, we facilitated relief assistance, medical missions, shelter kits and empowerment training. We put up a community centre where we can laugh, giggle, cry, counsel and hug each other for support and advancement of women’s work.
Today, we have nearly thousand women members and their numbers continues to rise up. Giving their voices hope is their ultimate weapon to rise above desperation and hopelessness. Relief assistance is but temporary but empowering the women and their families for social change and government reforms is forever. It will be forever imprinted in their hearts that their voice are their source of survival in fighting for their rights and triumphantly ends as victors not victims.
My heart melts and bubbles up witnessing the callousness and corruption of government while mothers crying and begging for food for their children. I don’t know when this suffering end and I felt the urgency that this situation must be changed.
“We need to end our hardship,” I always said passionately to women.
“If we will not rise up, who will rise up for us and for our children?”
Moving up my lenses from the Typhoon Haiyan devastated communities, devastation is again brewing up among small urban entrepreneurs in the city of Iloilo due to government policy of privatizing public markets. Most of the small entrepreneurs and transient vendors are women. Where will women go when this public markets operations will be transferred to big monopoly businesses? The disenfranchisement of livelihood among women widens the gaps between the rich and the poor thereby transforming economic empowered women to beggars.
“You’re an angel!” a woman transient vendor told me a week ago when I came to their meeting and explained what privatization or Public Private Partnership is all about. I was so moved with such simple but very inspiring and overpowering words.
Left and right, rear and front comes the government attack against the very heart of our survival. I always asked why and I always got agitated even deep within me, I knew the reasons why our government is killing us in so many ways. I can’t close my eyes and cover my ears to this endless suffering despite the death threats I’m facing.
I’ve lost another colleague of mine last March 15 as political killing of activists and journalists is once again on the rise. While writing this today, I got an alert message that another peasant leader activist was killed by paramilitary group in the community where they are operating. It worries me so much about our group safety and we need to be safe.
Government called me activists, leftist and even communist but standing on my ground for the poor and disadvantage women, for my daughter and my son, for my family , my community and my country is a gift I can give to humanity.
In times of political danger with the digital technology I never felt alone. Mobile phones and internet access are my ammunitions. Unlike decades ago, when communication is dependent on landline telephone and post mail, feeling of disconnection was nerve- racking. With the advancement of digital communication as to the mobile phones and internet connection I’m always felt a relative sense of security and connectivity. I can call or text my colleagues, my friends, the media and lawyers and I know what’s going on anytime I need to. Digital accessibility defies distance and fear.
I’m always grateful to my digital community for all my victories in my most challenging times. My life thread is linked to this web and every thread is my breath. Not too long ago, in 2006, I remember I got my first internet connection. It was an overwhelming yet amazing experience. Sometimes I feel so sorry for myself when I think about my life events in years without the internet. Maybe, I have finished my master’s degree online, maybe I’ve learned how to breastfeed my baby, etc.
The ever flowing digital advancement and internet information, made my world bigger. I saw life beyond my horizons. I can feel the breath of every woman longing and searching for freedom at the other side of the globe. I can sense the vibrant life giving community support for women’s empowerment. What is impossible became possible when I got connected to the world. I became an award-winning Voices of Our Future correspondent, visited several places in the US, meeting globally known women activists, telling our stories of pain and struggle and making a historical landmark in our digital activism.
It was my World Pulse community that connected me to the world virtually and physically; who taught me to believe in my writing capacity and uplifted my spirit that I can be a writer and an activist at the same time. World Pulse sparked the tiniest nerve of my being and continued to be one. It was because of World Pulse that I was able to attain a higher level of confidence of doing my activism work every day both offline and online.
Our collective voices both spoken and unspoken are giving me wings to fly and deliver message of hope to the world and to each and every one of us through the web. It is our women voices weaving and tangling with each other bringing triumphs possible and visible even in the most invisible thread connection.
Computer and internet connections in the Philippines are commonly used among the urban youth and the middle class. Majority still of the population especially the rural folks who comprises 70% of our population have no access to internet. Though, they have mobile phones to connect to their families.
A month from now, I’m going to train grassroots women and youth in Typhoon Haiyan affected community about digital activism using mobile phones and connect it to the internet bringing the voices of women, men and children who don’t have access to it. Wave by wave, we will conquer the digital web world sounding and amplifying the voices of women bringing hope and celebrating triumphs in ending discrimination and exploitation in this web called life.WWW: Women Weave the Web