Women Fighting the System! For an End to Elite Rule!
On this March 8, International Women’s Day, women have very little to celebrate! The multiple-burdens that we bear have not eased. They are getting heavier and even unbearable for a majority of women.
The country is still reeling from the disaster of Typhoon Yolanda that left around 14 million victims and survivors. It’s a well-documented fact that women are some of the most vulnerable to being affected by climate-induced disasters – the loss of lives, the loss of livelihoods, the destruction and damage to infrastructure and services, as well as the many forms of sexual violence against women that tend to increase in the wake of disasters.
The Partido Lakas ng Masa-PLM initiated the People’s Caravan, which reached some of the devastated communities, even before the government agencies or relief organizations did. We witnessed how women and their communities had been affected by the typhoon. We also witnessed how slow and inadequate the government’s disaster response and rehabilitation efforts in the devastated areas have been.
Women are especially opposed to the program of disaster capitalism of the Aquino government, which will carve up the battered communities into the reconstruction and investment areas for big corporations and investors such as SM, the Pangilinan group of companies, Aboitizes and Ayalas. This is yet another example of the neoliberal framework of the government, which places corporate profits above the needs of the women, this time in the devastated communities.
Women have the most to lose from the government’s program of disaster capitalism. Therefore on this day, PLM-Kababaihan and other sisters are protesting in the devastated areas, demanding: livelihood funds for women; calamity and anti-poverty funds for women; subsidy for farmers and fisherfolk; automatic PhilHealth coverage for affected communities; housing subsidies; regular work, not cash for work, and more. We stand in solidarity with them as they fight for the basic needs of their devastated communities.
The neo-liberal program of this government, which has led to the privatization of essential infrastructure and services, such as power and health, hits women especially hard. The privatization of the power sector under the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), the monopoly control of the industry by MERALCO, resulting in record high electricity prices, has made modern, quality-of-supply, energy services, inaccessible to the poor and affects women’s daily lives in many practical ways. It increases the time women spend on household chores and undermines their income generating activities which, for millions of women, tend to be home-based. Power shortages can also affect women’s safety and mobility.
Therefore we support demands for the repeal of EPIRA, to dismantle the monopoly control of MERALCO and to put the power sector under public control, with special attention given to the energy needs of women. This would include significant subsidies to make quality household energy services free and affordable, as well as the development of decentralized renewable energy technologies and systems based on community control, with the consultation and participation of women.
With respect to women’s health, we call for the establishment of a modern, public reproductive health system, based on the provision of free and accessible reproductive health services and modern and scientific methods of contraception and reproductive health technologies, which meet international standards of best practice and provide women with a wide array of choices. The laws and regulations governing such a system must be based on the framework of a women’s right to choose, to control her body, her reproductive functions and health.
Finally, we understand that the root cause of the multiple burdens that oppress and exploit women, as workers, as unemployed housewives, as the urban and rural poor, as students, as professionals, as poor farmers and fisherfolk, is the system of elite rule, which defends an economic system based on the supremacy of private profits over peoples needs.
Various factions of the elite are now jostling among themselves in preparation for the 2016 Presidential elections. Roxas, Binay, Cayetano: the dynasties and the political representatives of the system of elite rule in this country and trapo politics. If these are the only choices, then women have already lost the 2016 elections, unless we manage to put forward a genuine alternative that challenges the political dynasties and trapo politics.
We note that there are progressive parties and individuals coming together to form a slate that challenges the political dynasties. PLM-Kababaihan thinks that it’s in the interest of women’s rights advocates and activists to actively support such an initiative and attempt to influence it to take up a strong women’s rights agenda. We believe that the campaign against political dynasties is a key issue in the campaign to advance the struggle for women’s rights and gender equity.
To significantly reduce and ultimately eradicate the multiple-burdens of exploitation and oppression faced by women, requires a massive redistribution of resources – of wealth and productive assets – to meet the needs of women. This is what is happening in countries such as Venezuela today, where the Bolivarian revolution towards socialism, has resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth towards the people, towards women. The gains for women in the last 15 years of the revolution include the provision of basic services, such as free health and education and the eradication of illiteracy, increasing income, with the minimum wage (now the highest in Latin America) increased by 2000% and reducing poverty by up to 60%. Under the Bolivarian Constitution women’s reproductive labor is recognized as productive labor and unemployed housewives are awarded 80% of the minimum wage. The Venezuelan government describes this as the path to 21st Century Socialism.
On this day, PLM-Kababaihan also stands in solidarity with this path and vision of socialism, a bayanihang (solidarity) socialism, in solidarity with our sisters in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, across the South and North, standing up and fighting for their rights, against exploitation and oppression around the world.