Fighting violence against women

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United Methodist women and others in the Philippines are joining the One Billion Rising effort to fight violence against women.

This month, about 200 students, faculty, staff and academic heads joined the historic dance revolution in celebration of International Women’s Day at Plaza Acacia at the Wesleyan University-Philippines. In February, women leaders of The United Methodist Church also joined an ecumenical gathering for One Billion Rising held in Quezon City Memorial Circle, a national park.

One Billion Rising was started by Tony award-winning playright Eve Ensler. Around the world, the campaign has served as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 of 3 women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime — more than 1 billion women.

Resolution demanding change

Several college organizations read a resolution demanding change and expressing outrage at the injustices suffered by women.

"We rise to show our determination to create a new kind of consciousness. We are Wesleyans, and we want change!" read the resolution by the Social Work Society, Konseho Critiko (Council of Critical Thinkers in the College of Education,) The Sensitizers and the College of Education Local Council.

"Change paradigm! Demand accountability, justice and systematic change!" the resolution stated.

Inequality is the reason women’s rights are violated, said Susan F. Bustamante, social work coordinator at the university. She called for eliminating inequality.

Shiela R. Reyes, a student pastor, said she joined the dance for a friend who was a rape survivor.

"I rise for my friend who has been a victim of rape. We shall support women victims to overcome the trauma they have been through. We are accountable to stop anything that violates women's rights," said Reyes.

Two professors, Cecilia V. Lucena and Clarafe A. Gonzales, also joined the dance.

Lucena said she joined One Billion Rising to help women recognize their rights and find their rightful place in this world.  She also wants to eliminate the culture of sexism and “help women know that we are on equal footing with the men.”

Gonzales said she joined to make her presence visible and felt.

"It enabled me to persist with the advocacy for women empowerment.”

The power of collective voice

At the Quezon City gathering, Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana reflected on the story of Zelophehad’s five daughters in Numbers 27:1-11. A United Methodist deaconess and executive on Education and Nurture for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, she said that story encapsulated the challenges that women faced and what they had to do in order to affirm their rights.

Caramanzana mentioned the many women who played important and decisive roles in Israel's history and became models of faithfulness and virtue. 

This gathering “signifies the power of our collective voice, strength and courage,” she said.

Jennifer Ferrariza-Meneses, the executive secretary of the Philippines Board of Women's Work, said marginalized women and girls around the world experience violence, injustices and oppression.

“We put our faith and prayers into action, we join this global rising against unjust systems and oppressive structures that continue to destroy life and human dignity,” she said. 

End violence against women

Norma P. Dollaga, top executive of KASIMBAYAN (Ecumenical Center for Development) and a deaconess of The United Methodist Church, spoke against all oppression.

“We also rise for the Lumad indigenous people in Mindanao, seeking justice and peace. In the past years, in the name of the government counter insurgency program, leaders and community members were killed. Many of them are facing trumped-up charges and harassed.”

Dorothy Castro of the Church Women United of the Philippines said the group wants oppressors to know violence and oppression will not be tolerated.

“Violence and oppression are injustices that have no place in our so called Christian communities."

Johanna dela Cruz, who is with the NCCP’s National Council of Churches in the Philippines human right’s program, said women are capable of transforming the world so that peace and justice reign. 

She said that it is “shaking the world with our own gifts and graces that we show that there is a better way of existing, relating and taking care of this earth and our bodies.”

Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference.

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