THE BATTLE for women’s rights traces its roots from as early as 1908, when 15,000 women in New York marched for better wages and voting rights. More than a century later, the battle is still on against violations of women’s rights around the world: a battle not yet won, but not without its successes.
This is why from March 3-7, 2014, the Ateneo Law School witnessed how several women—both here and abroad—have inspired change and made significant milestones against discrimination based on gender, as it celebrated “Women Inspiring Change,” the theme of International Women’s Day on March 8.
With the sponsorship of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), the Gender and the Law class of 2014 organized the week-long event, which kicked off with an exhibit on March 3 in the ground floor atrium. The exhibit featured images of women—such as environmentalist Anna Oposa, media personality Oprah Winfrey, journalists Maria Ressa and Jessica Soho, and writer Doreen Fernandez—who, by excelling in their careers and working for their passions, showed how their genders are irrelevant in making a difference.
The images of the women displayed in the exhibit were given voices on March 6, through an open forum which saw five speakers share their advocacies to a roomful of people in Justitia.
The first speaker, Professor Joy Aceron of the Ateneo School of Goovernment, spoke about balancing the feminine and masculine as a means to achieve social change. “I do not see anything wrong [with] masculine and feminine traits and qualities…What is wrong is valuing one set of traits over the other… leading to perversions and abuses,” she says. “This is the situation in our society today. The feminine is suppressed. Rationality, firmness, domination—these are valued…While, feeling, nurturing, caring, and spontaneity—this is deemed inefficient, unprofessional, and are well kept in private spheres.”
Thereafter, Tin Gamboa, popularly known as DJ Suzy of Magic 89.9, shared how she had to work hard in order to be recognized in the broadcast radio industry. She says that today, gender biases are still present in her field; she was once complimented before, for example, “for being a good radio DJ…for a girl.” She asserts that recognition should be without gender bias, and says: “Magaling ako (I am good), period. Marami akong alam (I know a lot), period.”
Awarded crime fighter and Filipino-Chinese relations advocate Teresita Ang See, who spoke third, related her hardships fighting kidnap-for-ransom syndicates in the 90s and the inefficiencies of the justice system. She reminded the audience to “always give issues a face,” which, she says, greatly aided her in seeking for justice.
The fourth speaker, Silver Rose Awardee and head of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines Elizabeth Angsioco, emphasized several stereotypes against women—such as that of being madaldal (talkative), maingay (loud), and matigas-ulo (stubborn)—and turned these stereotypes around as strategies that needed to be employed in order for women to make their voices heard when fighting for their rights.
Lastly, Gang Badoy-Capati, most known for founding Rock Ed, emphasized that at the end, what advocates should aspire for is to be persevering, disciplined, patient, and hardworking, and not to lose sight of the real issues. If the cause becomes that of gender alone—without context—then there’s something wrong, she says.
After Gang spoke, an active open forum followed, with students asking questions ranging from the speakers’ experiences of discrimination to their opinion on Filipina leaders.
The celebration did not end with the forum. The day after, the Gender and the Law class, together with the AHRC interns, and Attys. Ampy and Mel Sta. Maria, Atty. Sarah Arriola, and Atty. Patricia Cervantes-Poco, capped off Gender Week with food, music, poetry, and stories of more women inspiring change in the community.