With June 10, 2018 just 3 days left Imphal Times is reproducing the series of lectures delivered by different eminent personalities on the Arambam Somorendra Memorial Lecture on the day every year organised by the Arambam Somorendra Memorial Trust . The write up re-produced here was an excerpt from the lecture delivered by Anna Rosario Dejarlo Malindog on the occasion in 2013
“Filipinos don’t realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is a product of sacrifice”
- Dr. Jose Rizal
Since time immemorial, my country just like many others is home to great women of courage, character, and bravery. Filipino women like Gabriela Silang, Melchora Aquino, Gregoria de Jesus, and many other great and courageous women were active in the nationalist struggle against the Spaniards during the Spanish colonization experience of my country. As early as 1893, organized women advocated various women’s concerns and issues. In 1899, the Women’s Red Cross was established by Hillarie Aguinaldo, the wife of Emilio Aguinaldo, one of the most revered heroes and revolutionary leaders of my country, to do humanitarian work.
At the advent of the American colonization, several women’s groups were founded and established that advocated various women’s concerns and issues. For instance, the Feminist Association of the Philippines set up by Feliz Rodriquez in 1905 advocated for educational, labour and prison reforms for women and minors. In 1906, Pura Villanueva Kalaw established the Associacion Feminista Ilongga, which was the first group of women in my country that clamored for right to suffrage. On the other hand, during World War II, the role of women in my country gained momentum with a different twist. The movements of women clamouring for the right to suffrage at that point in time were gaining such a huge impetus. In 1921, the National Federation of Women’s Club, which served at that time as the vanguard in safeguarding and pushing for the women’s suffrage agendum was founded. This organization was the first one that organized the first women convention of 1929 where a resolution was passed asking the government to grant women the right to vote. Another women’s organization, National League of Filipino Women, that was established during that time specifically advocated and lobbied for national independence.
Philippines won independence in 1946 just after World War II. This hard won independence came after decades of colonization which saw intense struggles towards independence and self-determination. The struggle for women’s rights and emancipation formed a significant strand of the broader national struggle for independence and self-determination. The continuous contributions of these women and women’s movements, as my country faced new challenges as a new independent nation state endured. During the period of Martial Law, which lasted for at least 21 years, my country was devastated by social and political unrests. The left movement during that time, together with the Filipino masses, and various sympathetic groups declared their dissent against a perceived corrupt government led by the former president and dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, against US imperialism, and against semi-colonialism. The moderate left movement at that time was transformed into a more radical and militant one as leaders of the left movement like Jose Maria Sison [who founded the Kabataang Makabayan (Young Nationalist/Patriots)], and Bernabe Buscayano (who founded the New Peoples Army) became very adept and engrossed in their fight against the dictatorship of Marcos.
Nonetheless, it is not only the men of my country who became passionately involved in the struggle against the Marcos regime at that time. Women also became involved and participated both politically and militarily, as the left movement became more subversive. For instance, the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) founded in 1970, which was the first women organization with a clear-cut ideological underpinning that fought for nationalism under the Marcos dictatorship, was one of most prominent and active women’s organizations at that time. MAKIBAKA’s fundamental advocacy at that time centered against the patriarchal structure of the country, imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.
Consequently, women groups such as the Women Involved in Nation-Building (WIN), the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DWSP), the Ugnayan ng mga Kababaihan sa Pulitika (UKP or Women’s Political Caucus), bearing the advocacy of asserting the significant role of women in strengthening democracy, and their participation in politics, and in all aspects of public and state affairs emerged, while the country is the process of democratization after the dark ages of Martial Law. Furthermore, women and women’s organization in my country became more active in politics as the Party List System was put into practiced. In 1992, Gabriela, a left-leaning women’s organization participated in the first ever party-list election and it won a seat in Congress. In the succeeding party list elections i.e. 2004, 2007, 2010, and the recent 2013 mid-term elections in my country, Gabriela women’s party won seats in the Congress. There were many women’s organizations that also tried their luck in running a women’s party in this electoral contests. However, it was Gabriela that is said to the most successful.
Indeed, it is my humble realization and reflection that, as peoples and nations of our world continuously fight and struggle for self-determination and independence, we should not forget to recognize the sacrifices of the great women – be it in Manipur or elsewhere. I want as well to convey to the people and women of Manipur that their ideals and their struggle for self-determination are shared by many peoples and nations of Asia and beyond, that they are not alone in this struggle.