[Press Release] Marchers with Purple Masks Call for the End of Violence Against Indigenous Women

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Marchers with Purple Masks Call for the End of Violence Against Indigenous Women

Photo by Katutubong Lilak

(Quezon City/Philippines) – “Today, we speak up. We, indigenous women, who are among the poorest of the poor, hungrier among the hungry, seek justice for the continuing violation of our basic right to live with dignity,” Teresa dela Cruz said, an indigenous woman from the Aeta community of Zambales.

Teresa, a leader of the Katutubong Lilak, was part of the indigenous women marchers who were wearing purple masks, to mark the day of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. “We wear these purple masks as some of us are afraid to be seen in public protesting; but our desire to be part of this collective call to seek for accountability, and justice is strong.”

“Mabuti kung may CCTV sa kabundukan sa amin para makita at matukoy ang mga nangunguna ng karahasan sa amin. Pero wala. (It is good if there is CCTV in the mountains where we live to identify who are the perpetrators of violence against us. But there is none.),” says Leticia Gomez, an Aeta woman. “We experience violence on a daily basis – against our husbands, people from government agencies who refuse to attend to our needs, and those who grab our lands.”

The indigenous women marched to and held a program in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), where the residents of the Manicani Islands have been camping out for 15 days, protesting the large scale mining operations in their town. “We are here in solidarity with the Manicani women and men. Your struggle against mining is ours too. Your struggle for land and rights is ours too,” the indigenous women said.

Remedios Marquez, a Dumagat from General Nakar, expressed frustration that people had to camp out to get the attention of the government. “This government is really deaf, blind and mute to the needs of its people. The President has been holding summits, and state visits, but he does not have the time to listen to the people.”

“This government is so obssessed with killings and violence. Why does it not focus on providing livelihood and employment opportunities to its people?” Angeline Aquino, a Dumagat woman from Bulacan, said. “Our lives are on the line in protecting our forests and natural resources, and yet we receive very little attention and support from the government. Kabuhayan, hindi patayan!”

At the end of the program, Teresa, Remedios and Leticia with other indigenous women removed their masks. “We are no longer afraid. Even if this government is threatening us who believe in human rights, who are fighting for our rights, we are here to demand for our rights – to our land, to our lives.”

“For us indigenous women, we do not say the names of big influential people. But starting today, we should. We do – Duterte. Duterte who emboldens other men to objectify and disrespect women; Duterte who encourages killings and violence in our society. So we urge other women to demand – stop violence against women. Respect women human rights. We urge everyone to resist Duterte’s acts of sowing fear and terror in our communities,” said Leticia.

The indigenous women came from the provinces of Quezon, Zambales, Aurora, Bulacan and Pampanga. They were joined by other groups like LILAK, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, iDEFEND, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Freedom from Debt Coalition-Women’s Committee, Focus on the Global South, Philippine Movement from Climate Justice, among others.

Contact Information:

LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
Judy A. Pasimio – 09175268341 / judy@lilak.net
Abbygail F. Dupale – 09155045530 / abby@lilak.net

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