INDIGENOUS WOMEN to Gov’t: Stop Violence, Focus on Food and Poverty
“Land is why we live, land is why we are killed.” This is the statement of the Indigenous women to describe the current situation that most of their communities face today. “Puro patayan na lang ngayon – ng tao, ng kalikasan. Magmula sa war on drugs, tapos laban sa NPA. Humahaba na rin ang listahan ng mga katutubo na pinapatay dahil sa pakikipaglaban nila sa kanilang lupa mula sa mga minahan at iba pang dambuhalang proyekto. Samantala, mismo ang presidente ang nagtutulak ng pagmimina at plantasyon sa katutubong lupain. Tama ba yon?” asks Teresa dela Cruz, an indigenous woman leader from Maporac, Zambales.
“It is all about killings now – of people, or our environment. From war on drugs, then killings of NPAs. The list of indigenous peoples being killed for fighting for their land against mining and other investors, is growing. Meanwhile, it is the president himself which has said that it will handpick mining and plantations for the ancestral domain. Is this right?”
Indigenous women from Aeta, Mangyan and Dumagat communities celebrated the International Women’s Day at the capitol plaza of Iba, Zambales. TheAeta performed their traditional dance talipi and eagle dance. ”Eagles are very much part of our culture. But nowadays, you seldom see eagles. There are no more forest for them to live in,” Teresa explained. In their dance, the Aeta women brought baskets and bilao, which are often empty now. “Hunger is becoming an ordinary part of our daily experience. This is not just among Aetas but for most of us indigenous women. Our forests, and farms which are sources of food are being destroyed by land grabbers, and by development projects such as mining, and dams,” according to Conchita Bigong, anAlangan-Mangyan from Mindoro. “We need to cultivate our lands, and regenerate our forests. That’s where our food and livelihood come from.” In their statement, they criticized the president for offering P20,000 to indigenous people for every communist they kill. “Hanap-buhay ba ang pagpatay? Sagrado ang buhay, at kaming mga kababaihan ang nauunang nagbibigay ng buhay. Hindi namin pagkakakitaan ang pagkitil nito.”
“Is killing a livelihood? Life is sacred, and we, women are the ones who give life. We refuse to make money out of eliminating it.”
Remedios Marquez, a Dumagat woman leader said that what is needed today is less violence, but more caring and nurturing. “Ang kailangan ay ang pagkalinga sa mamamayan. Sa aming mga katutubo, lalo’t higit sa mga kababaihan, ang nais namin ay tunay na serbisyung pangkalusugan, na may pagkilala sa aming kultura at sariling kaalaman sa pangangalaga ng aming katawan.”
“What is needed is nurturing of our citizens. For us indigenous peoples, especially women, what we need are health services which recognize our culture and our indigenous knowledge in our care for our bodies.”
The women from Sta. Cruz, Zambales joined the celebration, as they echo the calls of the indigenous women to stop mining and destroying their environment. There were other groups present– LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) and World March of Women, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).
This is the first time that the indigenous women led an International Women’s Day celebration in Zambales. “Batid namin na ang tunay na lakas at pagbabago ay magaganap sa aming pagsasama-sama bilang katutubo, at pakiki-isa sa mas malawakang kilusan ng kababaihan,”Remedios said.
“We know that true strength and the genuine changes lie in our coming together as a collective as indigenous women, and from the solidarity with the broader women’s movement.”
This year’s theme for their celebration – Katarungan, Kabuhayan, Kapangyarihan para sa Katutubong Kababaihan.
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