MANILA, Philippines – By sitting on the road, Filipina women asserted their right to civic spaces during the Women Occupy Spaces sit down strike on Sunday, March 8, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day.
More than 300 women gathered and blocked Scout Tobias and Timog roads in Quezon City as they symbolically pushed back against narrowing political spaces for women in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“As more women are harassed and their rights are violated, they are left with no other option but to fight for their rights,” said Jean Enriquez, National Coordinator of World March of Women-Pilipinas.
Enriquez said that the sit-down strike symbolizes the women standing up against the curtailment of human rights. (READ: Violence against women an ‘epidemic’ in PH – expert)
In the same way, they also stand up against sexism and misogyny which they said is propagated by none other than the President himself. (EXPLAINER: Never bastos? Duterte’s top sexist moments)
The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) also said that women need to occupy the spaces denied them and must continue “to sit down in the streets where women are prevented from protesting.”
But the sit-down strike was not only a strike for women’s rights but an act of asserting human rights when the culture of impunity is widespread. An estimated 27,000-30,000 people are believed to have been killed in the President’s centerpiece program, the war on illegal drugs.
“Binabastos ang mga babae, at dumarami ang mga pinapatay na mga manggagawa, gayundin ang mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatan ng mga katutubo,” Enriquez explained.
(Women are harassed, and more workers are being killed. Indigenous peoples’ rights defenders are also being killed.)
The group who protested on March 8 also condemned the Anti-Terror Bill approved by the Senate on February 28 and the Executive Order No. 70, which was implemented since 2018.
Enriquez explained how the military talks to workers, telling them not to join unions in their workplaces. She said that in the countryside, the military sows fear among the people, warning them against engaging with human rights groups.
“This is why this International Women’s Day, it is important for us to show we fight for our rights by symbolically occupying the streets.” – Rappler.com