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Summer 1999 Vol.8, No.3
The New Millenium: Towards a Just
and Lasting Peace

By Luningning Alcuitas-Imperial


As Filipino women in Canada, we join countless other women around the globe who long for a just and lasting peace. Women have historically been in the forefront of the struggle for peace through their continuing resistance against the roots of their oppression. Yet at the dawn of a new millenium, our reality is anything but peaceful. Instead, we live in an unjust and violent reality where the majority of our women suffer from poverty, underdevelopment and forced migration. It is important for us to understand the roots of our diaspora, so that we can take concrete steps towards building a just and lasting peace for ourselves and our future generations.


Poverty, displacement, commodification and modern-day slavery
The roots of our unjust and violent reality lie in our homeland, the Philippines. As a Third World semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, the Philippines is in a state of chronic economic crisis. Prices of basic necessities keep going up, while wages are being pushed down. This situation hits Filipino women and children the hardest since they comprise the majority of the poorest classes of Filipino society - the workers and the peasants. According to GABRIELA Philippines (the militant national alliance of women’s organizations), “Either women have no jobs or they are employed in the most exploitative conditions of work...Peasant women are being displaced from their land both by foreign-owned ‘development projects’ and militarization.



"Thus, Filipino women experience myriad forms of socio-economic violence which are rooted in the systemic problems of foreign domination, domestic feudalism and elite control."


In the city, women find themselves having to defend their homes from being demolished.” (from “Jobs, Land, Homes for Women, Not VFA,” GABRIELA Press Release, July 23, 1998) Thus, Filipino women experience myriad forms of socio-economic violence which are rooted in the systemic problems of foreign domination, domestic feudalism and elite control.


Foreign domination is once again manifesting itself through increasing militarization with the recent ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States on May 27, 1999. This is an urgent concern for Filipino women the world over. The VFA is a military pact which gives the U.S. licence to occupy all or any part of the Philippines for any length of time. Knowing the tragic experience of Filipino women during the time of the Subic Bay / Clark U.S. military bases and set in the context of poverty and displacement, the VFA will surely increase the numbers of women and children forced into prostitution for survival. There are already 400,000 prostituted women and 100,000 prostituted children in the Philippines. The number of cases of abandoned Amerasian children, of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and of violent rapes and other crimes against women is all bound to multiply. The global trafficking of Filipino women will also expand. Having militantly rejected the U.S. military bases in 1991, the struggle of Filipino women and children against militarization and for peace has been definitely setback by the VFA.


Forced migration
It is precisely this situation of poverty and underdevelopment which drives over 2,000 Filipinos (55% of whom are women) to leave the country every day. Pushed by the Labour Export Policy (LEP) of the U.S.-Estrada regime, migrant Filipinos now number over 7 million in 182 countries worldwide.



"For the majority of Filipino women in Canada, we continue our daily struggle for survival. We often find ourselves in low-paying jobs, which still resemble domestic work.


Their remittances reach over $7 billion U.S. per year, helping to prop up an ailing Philippine economy. When they get to the “receiving” countries like Canada, Filipino women find themselves in a continuing spiral of poverty, marginalization and isolation. For the majority of Filipino women in Canada, we continue our daily struggle for survival. We often find ourselves in low-paying jobs, which still resemble domestic work. We are often the principal breadwinners for our families, yet because of the impact of de-skilling and systemic racism we are not allowed to make full use of our skills, education and experience. We are often denied access to social services, such as affordable housing, quality health care and educational assistance. Even the young women in our community struggle with economic hardship, discrimination and other social problems stemming from the difficulty in integrating into the mainstream of Canadian society. Thus, our harsh reality in Canada - constructed and maintained by the economic system - is still fundamentally unjust.


Towards a just and lasting peace

Based on our reality as Filipino women, it is clear that we do not live in an era of “peace.” Can our situation be truly described as “peaceful” when we experience so much injustice and poverty? In our history as a people, women have been continuously struggling for a just and lasting peace. At the eve of the last millenium, Filipino women fought against U.S. military aggression during the Philippine-American War (which began in 1899). Now, at the dawn of the new millenium, Filipino women continue to oppose U.S. military presence in the Philippines and the VFA. Our continuing resistance against the root causes of our oppression is an integral part of the struggle for a just and lasting peace.

 


PWC began the Centre UPdate as a means of empowerment and education of the community. Since it's early beginings the Centre UPdate has been the voice marginalized Filipino women in Canada.

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