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Reyes presents paper on migration at Chonnam Nat’l University in South Korea

Melanie Reyes, Program Coordinator of WAGI and faculty of the International Studies Department, recently presented a paper in Chonnam National University at Gwangju, South Korea.  The paper entitled, “Return Migration of Filipino Overseas: Is there Really a Way Back Home?,” looks at Philippine government’s reintegration programs and the reasons why many Filipino overseas would rather take the risk to work and stay in a foreign land than settle permanently in the country.

The paper was delivered during the International Conference on Migration, Return and Diaspora held last November 10, 2017.  The conference, which was organized by the Department of Diaspora Studies, College of Social Sciences of Chonnam National University, aims to engage graduate students and faculty of the Department of Diaspora Studies in intercultural dialogue and build research collaboration and exchanges on migration issues, especially on transnational migration, return migration, and diaspora.

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Women, democracy and our bodies by Rina Jimenez-David | Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sisters—perennials, millennials, or mere buds—are invited to take part in tomorrow’s observance of International Women’s Day.
In particular, there will be a forum on “Women and Democracy” to be held at the Little Theater, Miriam College on Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

A special guest at the forum is Vice President Leni Robredo, and she will be joined by Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Leila de Lima, the last perhaps digitally. The renowned and much-missed duo Inang Laya will lend their artistry to the event. A “public conversation” with all the women present and guests will then follow.

Why should Filipino women be talking of democracy? Well, now more than ever! There is no better time, no more urgent a topic than the threats to democracy presented in these days of EJKs, “tokhang” and creeping authoritarianism, as exemplified by the arrest and detention of De Lima.  If, with the exception of a few hardy champions, our legislators and officials choose to hide behind political expediency and cowardly accommodation, then Filipino women will have to take up the slack. After all, we have long been on the frontline of the battle to establish and then restore democracy on our shores, and I believe we will not shirk our duty and our mission this time around.

Celebrate International Women’s Day, tomorrow at Miriam College, and for the rest of Women’s Month in the streets, in our classrooms, in our homes. The fight continues and grows more urgent with each passing day.

Another “arena” in our battle for our rights and autonomy as women hews closer to home, in our own bodies, in fact, in each woman’s uterus, vagina, and, most important, mind and will.

Women’s groups, reproductive health advocates and even government bodies like the Department of Health and the Population Commission, have issued an urgent message directed at the Supreme Court to lift, as soon as possible, a temporary restraining order blocking the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.
Acting on the petition of RH opponents, the Supreme Court in 2015 issued an order preventing the DOH from distributing contraceptive implants, on grounds that these might cause abortions (a fear that has been scientifically disproved).

At the same time, the tribunal also ordered the Food and Drug Administration to go through the entire cycle of certification for ALL family planning devices and supplies, including those that have long been in use but whose licenses will soon expire.

If the TRO lasts much longer, Filipino women will soon lose all access to most forms of contraception. What this means is that our access to life-saving forms of contraception will be curtailed. Already, we are seeing an uptick not just in the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, but also in maternal and infant deaths.

This is why the PopCom considers the situation created by the TRO on contraceptives as a looming “public health emergency.” This is because, unless conditions change drastically, the PopCom estimates that the number of mothers dying during childbirth “may also rise by an additional 1,000 deaths a year during the next six years.”

Some people, especially the self-righteous and narrow-minded, may not consider an additional 1,000 mothers dying every year a public health crisis. (Perhaps they’re the same folks who can accept with equanimity over 7,000 EJKs in less than a year?) But I certainly do!

In addition, the PopCom sees the total Philippine population rising to more than 113 million by 2022, from its current total of 104 million. The explosion in the number of new births can be traced in part to the lack of access of women—especially younger women—to contraception. Not only would mistimed pregnancy take a toll on the health of younger (and older) mothers, it would also have adverse effects on the health and chances of survival of newborns and of their surviving siblings as well.
The PopCom in a press release says the lifting of the TRO would be a “gift of health” to Filipino women. It would also be an acknowledgment of the inherent right of women (and men) to reproductive health and to choose the life they want for themselves.

SOURCE: Philippine Daily Inquirer > 

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Supreme injustice | Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last Nov. 8, the Supreme Court decided  that former president Ferdinand Marcos deserves to be given the honor of being buried in the hallowed grounds of the Libingan ng mga Bayani on the basis of a policy that allows soldiers to be buried in that cemetery. What could have been a historic opportunity to make a decision upholding human rights and justice turned into an ignominious and supreme injustice to the Filipino people.

Marcos was not an ordinary soldier; he was a tyrannical dictator who imposed martial law on the Philippines and unleashed a reign of terror for 13 years, leaving on its wake the murder, torture and rape of thousands of Filipinos who resisted the dictatorship. His ill-gotten wealth for his family and friends robbed the Philippine government of billions of pesos and continues to be the object of investigation and court proceedings here and abroad. By dismantling the democratic institutions of the country during martial law, he plunged the country into its lowest political, economic and cultural abyss.

To this day, the Marcos family has neither shown any remorse nor admitted guilt despite the global condemnation of the massive human rights violations committed by their patriarch. With arrogance and impunity, they have initiated a campaign to distort history, reinvent the Marcos years as the golden years in Philippine history, and declare Marcos as a national hero. In this project, the Supreme Court has proven to be an effective accomplice.

To honor him as a hero is mocking the thousands of victims who died and those who were tortured and continue to suffer because they fought and resisted the dictatorship;

To honor him is to say that the massive human rights violations committed by the Marcos regime with impunity; the unprecedented plunder of our country’s resources and the destruction of our democratic institutions never really happened in our recent history;

To honor him as a hero is to deny that the Filipino people exercising their sovereign will, ousted the dictatorship for his crimes against the people during the 1986 People Power Revolution;

Lastly, to honor Marcos is to dishonor the dignity, legitimacy and the very credibility of the Supreme Court itself as an institution that stands for fairness and justice.

We urge the nine Supreme Court justices who supported this decision to reflect on the impact of their decision on the thousands who died and those who are tortured and are reliving their suffering and to consider the future of the Supreme Court, whose credibility has been seriously eroded because of this unjust decision.

As an institution of learning that values VERITAS (truth), peace, justice and the integrity of creation, we will continue to promote an enlightened and critical understanding of the struggles of Filipinos against martial law  and the historic redemption of our freedoms and human rights in the People Power Revolution where Maryknoll/ Miriam College was an active participant.

We promise to promote Philippine history from the prism of those who struggled to fight for democracy and not from the revisionist version of those who are now trying to systematically distort and conceal the brutal realities of the past.

We commit ourselves to always remember and never forget the bitter lessons of the past so we can continue to build a future for the next generations based on respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and dignity of the Filipino people.

PROF. AURORA DE DIOS, executive director, Women and Gender Institute;
DR. JASMIN NARIO-GALACE, executive director, Center for Peace Education;
CARLO GARCIA, executive director, Environmental Studies Institute; 
NIKAELA CORTEZ, president, Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Miriam

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer > 

WAGI conducts Gender Sensitivity Training for COMELEC election officers

The Miriam College-Women and Gender Institute conducted a Gender Sensitivity Training for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) last November 23, 2016 at the Learning Media Center of the Middle School. It was attended by 27 election officers and lawyers coming from the NCR region, namely Caloocan City, Las Piñas City, Makati City, Malabon City, Manila, Marikina City, Muntinlupa City, Navotas City, Paranaque, Pasay, Quezon City, San Juan City, Taguig City, and Valenzuela City. 
The training team included Prof. Aurora Javate De Dios, WAGI executive director; Dr. Socorro Reyes, president of Center for Legislative Development (CLD); and Stella Eloisa Fong, program coordinator, Gender Fair Education. The participants shared that they were “truly educated” after the training, and that the lecturers, approaches, and methods of the training were excellent. 
The sessions the participants found most interesting were, “The Magna Carta on Women and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) with special focus on Political Participation”, and “The use of Gender Fair Language”.

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WAGI conducts gender responsive planning, budgeting for ARMM

The Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) through its Gender, Peace and Security Project funded by the US Department of States conducted a training workshop on Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting for ARMM offices and LGU officials last October 19 to 21, 2016 at Discovery Suites Hotel.

Led by the training team composed of Prof. Aurora de Dios, Melanie Reyes, and Cecilia Fantastico, the workshop aimed to increase knowledge on gender and development among ARMM agency and LGU officials, identify gender issues/needs in local governance and in LGU organizations, determine the areas of opportunity where women in the community can engage with and generate inputs to ARMM agency and LGUs’ 2018 Gender and Development (GAD) plans. Other invited speakers include Luvy Villanueva from the Philippine Commission on Women who discussed economic opportunities for women and Atty. Twyla Rubin of the Commission on Human Rights who shared the Gender Ombud Guidelines in relation to mandates concerning the utilization of the GAD budget.

The training was attended by 27 participants representing ARMM’s Office of the Regional Governor, Office of the Regional Vice Governor, Department of Interior and Local Government, Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women and the Office of Southern Cultural Communities as well as representatives from Provincial Local Government Units of Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao Del Sur.

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WAGI convenes research workshop on Political and Economic Participation of Women in ARMM

WAGI and the Women’s Peace Collective (WPC) convened a research workshop for its research project on Political and Economic Participation of Women in ARMM on October 22 to 23, 2016. The productive workshop was able to refine the research objectives, methodology and survey instrument as well as identify the research site and sample population. Participating research coordinators came from various universities and NGOs in Mindanao, such as the Western Mindanao State University, Mindanao State University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation, Inc., and Kapamagogopa, Incorporated. 
The workshop is part of the Gender, Peace and Security Project handled by WAGI with support from the US Department of State.

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Miriam College’s Women and Gender Institute to launch docu, publication on Women, Peace, and Security | Press Release

Miriam College - Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) and the Women’s Peace collective (WPC), formerly known as the Women’s Peace Table (WPT), will be launching several publications on October 21, 2016, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Discovery Suites, Columbus, 42nd Floor, ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City

These publications  are the Gender, Peace, and Security Infopack, The Peace Journey: Stories of Women from the Women’s Peace Collective (WPC), Women, Peace and Security: Increasing Participation of Women in Conflict Areas in Mindanao: End of Project Report, and the Baseline Research on the Issues and Status of Women in Mindanao. Additionally, a short video documentary presentation will be shown. 

The Women’s Peace Collective (WPC) is a network of women’s organizations, professionals, community leaders, and individual peace advocates working towards peace and justice. The organization recently finished a project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) entitled, “Women, Peace and Security: Increasing Participation of Women in Conflict Areas in Mindanao”. Through this project, WPC was able to build a national constituency for peace among women and different strategic groups (such as business, media, youth, religious, legislature, and the academe) in support of the Bangsamoro Peace agreement; develop the capacity of women peace negotiators, peace builders and peace advocates to ensure a gender responsive Bangsamoro Basic Law; and localize the implementation of the Philippine Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security (NAP-WPS) in USAID’s six selected conflict-affected areas in Mindanao namely, North Cotabato, Basilan, South Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Zamboanga. 

For more information, please contact Ms. Jing Dacayo or Ms. Mel Reyes at telephone numbers 435-9229 and 5805400 ext. 3590, or email us at and .

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Islamic worldview by Amina Rasul | Business World

Around the world, both in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, Muslim women’s rights have been the subject of a great deal of debate. While many feminists have criticized sharia (Islamic law) as restrictive for women, many have also defended Islam as the sponsor of women’s rights.

My parents brought us up believing in personal liberties and equality. After all, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) married his employer, Khadija, who became one of his trusted advisers. My sisters and I therefore grew up believing we could attain whatever future we wanted for ourselves. There was no special treatment for sons -- only for achievers. Women have been elected as heads of state in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Maldives, and Azerbaijan long before the United States has.

The wave of democratization that swept the Islamic world after the Arab Spring has been blocked. After encouraging images of young women standing shoulder to shoulder with young men in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, bravely facing a dictatorial government, we now see the evolving portrait of a government more oppressive towards women and minorities. Some young women died fighting for their freedom in Libya and in Syria. Today, we have the picture of an un-Islamic ISIS, claiming to be THE champion of Islam, evoking horror with their beheading of prisoners and abuse of their own women.

More rigid interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence -- not too friendly to women -- have gained the upper hand in the newly democratized states. Thus, Muslim women leaders must engage the state and the religious leaders to define a more just, legal framework for both women and men.

This past week, we have been fortunate to have an internationally renowned Muslim jurist in our midst. Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, Founder of Karamah, an organization of Muslim women lawyers for human rights, and professor emerita at the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, has spoken at forums in Mindanao and Metro Manila on the state of women’s rights and the Islamic worldview. Thanks to the US Embassy for acceding to my request to bring Dr. al-Hibri to our shores as a Visiting American Scholar.

The first Muslim woman law professor in the United States, she has written extensively on women’s issues, democracy, and human rights from an Islamic perspective. Her essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the Harvard International Review, and Fordham International Law Journal.

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for a two-year term. Most recently, she had delivered the Ramadan Lecture before the King of Morocco, the first Muslim woman scholar so invited.

I would describe Azizah al-Hibri as a modern day jihadist, one who has embarked on a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline to reform society. This is the greater jihad. Western media has hijacked the term jihad to mean armed warfare. Armed struggle, in defense of faith and community, is the lesser jihad.

Dr. al-Hibri blames patriarchal thinking and Muslim women’s lack of education for the oppressive interpretation of Islam on women’s rights. While Islam sought to liberate women, patriarchal thinking has brought about the inequalities faced by women in society, not by faith. Culture must be separated from faith as Islamic law is interpreted.

During her lectures at Miriam College last Wednesday and at the University of the Philippines College of Law on Thursday (co-organized by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy), she emphasized that many verses in the Qur’an have been interpreted by men to favor men. In marriage for instance, men are taught that they are superior to women and thus must be followed by women. However, the Qur’an does not say that men are “superior” to women. Rather, it says that men are “caretakers” of women who are in need of assistance.

Dr. al-Hibri also spoke about minority rights and Islam, citing what she terms as “one of the most visionary documents in the history of Islamic praxis” -- the Madinah Charter. Executed by the Prophet Muhammad on the one hand, and the various Muslim and Jewish tribes on the other, the charter defined the relationship between faith and freedom, which shed further light on the verse in the Qur’an that states: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)

The Charter is the first written constitution, intended to establish a plural society, giving equal rights to every citizen including participation in governance. Further, the Charter introduced a form of government that adhered to the shura system (parliamentary system) where citizens can give opinions, even if these contradict the ruler’s opinions. These are the foundations for a democratic society. It is therefore strange that the practice of Islam in most Islamic countries today has enshrined authoritarian rule.

She also explains that the Qur’an repeatedly states that the core of Islam is Justice, saying that the notion of Justice is explained throughout the Qur’an to be a restorative one based on compassion and forgiveness, not a distributive one whose only goal is to punish.

The Madinah Charter devised a special legal structure to protect the religious liberty of the diverse religious tribes and to promote peace in the community. According to Dr. al-Hibri, the Prophet devised a “federalist” model, for Muslim and Jewish citizens alike, preserving and protecting each group’s own identity, customs, and internal relations. “All members of the “federation” were then joined together in common defense and peace making.”

As we in the Philippines embark on the road towards federalism, we in Muslim Mindanao should discuss the Madinah Charter and find our inspiration therein.

Change has to happen from within. If President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his federalist movement truly want positive change to happen, they cannot impose the will of the majority on Muslim Mindanao. It must come from the heart of the community. Federalists should best study the Madinah Charter and incorporate it into their discussions.

Amina Rasul is a democracy, peace and human rights advocate, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy.

SOURCE: Business World Online >

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Prof. Aurora De Dios attends ASEAN Civil Society Conference and People’s Forum in Timor Leste

Prof. Aurora Javate-De Dios, executive director of WAGI, attended the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ASCS/APF) in Timor Leste last August 3 to 5, 2016. 

The ASCS/APF is a regular forum of Civil Society Organizations in ASEAN-member states, which is held as a parallel meeting to the ASEAN Summit of Heads of State. 

Prof. de Dios engaged in a conversation with women peace builders in conflict and post conflict situations in Southeast Asia. She shared the strategies used to get widespread support for the Philippines National Action Plan (NAP), including awareness raising in schools, interfaith dialogues, and capacity-building seminars. She also imparted valuable strategies on how to run and win elections. 

“Women must be part of the peace process, they must be part of the decision-making, including those that are related to natural resource management,” she said. 

Prof. de Dios is the Philippine representative to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).

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WAGI conducts GAD training for gov’t agencies

A training on Gender Responsive, Planning, and Budgeting (GRPB) was conducted last June 20-23, 2016 where 38 participants from various government agencies, academe, and civil society attended namely; Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Davao, Bureau of Customs, Food Terminal Inc., Gender Wave, Marikina City Government, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Office of the Solicitor General, Women and Reforms, Caraga State University, and Pangasinan State University. 
The training was led by Atty. Claire Luczon as the GRPB Training Team Leader, Melanie Reyes, deputy director of WAGI, and Cecilia Fantastico, gender consultant of WAGI. The training was full of lectures and workshops that helped engage the participants in understanding and accomplishing Gender and Development (GAD) Budgeting. Within the four-day training the participants was able to learn basic GAD concepts, GAD Mandates, Gender Mainstreaming, and the best practices and challenges of Gender Mainstreaming from experts. 
Resource persons included Atty. Claire Luczon, Cecilia Fantastico, Aurora Javate De Dios, executive director of WAGI, Atty. Leavides Domingo-Cabarrubias, International Studies Faculty of Miriam College, Assistant Commissioner Divina Alagon of the Commission on Audit (COA), Nharleen Santos of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), and Atty. Twylah Rubin of Commission on Human Rights (CHR). 
After the seminar, the participants stated that the training fully met and/or exceeded their expectations. They specifically appreciated the method of teaching and the workshops done by the facilitators. One commented that the training used an “effective method of teaching”. Another claimed that the workshop, “made me deepen my understanding [of GAD], and think of projects that can mainstream gender”.

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