In the first National Indigenous Women Gathering in 2011, held in Koronadal, the 54 indigenous women collectively discussed their local situation within their families, and their communities. They talked about the increasing hunger, the difficulty in sending their children to school, the lack of health care for their sick, the mothers and the newborn babies, and the continuing discrimination against them as indigenous, and as women. They shared the different and yet similar experiences of loss, damage and becoming poorer from the government projects such as mining, and large dams. They discussed the different government programs which they were told would help them improve their lives, and the new President Aquino whom they heard said – “kayo ang boss ko.” They felt hope, and thought change was coming. But on the third day of the gathering, they realized that the Aquino government has not taken any bold steps away from the direction of the past Arroyo administration – same policies of favoring foreign investments’ entry into the ancestral domains, of looking at natural resources as sources of profit rather than of life; policies which ask rural and indigenous communities to make sacrifice for the benefit of the already privileged Filipinos. And so when the indigenous women were asked to “grade” the first year of the Aquino administration, they said that P’noy failed to pass the test of their being an ally. There was also a rich discussion on the different challenges in broadening their ranks – lack of resources, need more allies and friends, and more commitment from among themselves to learn, to reach out to others within their communities, and to the other women from different communities and sectors. As part of their next actions, the 2012 National Indigenous Women Gathering was planned. The planning was led by the Indigenous Women Steering Committee, members of which were chosen by the participants from the different communities. On October 16-19, 2012, the 2nd National Indigenous Women Gathering was held in Manila, participated in by 42 indigenous women, coming from 14 tribes and sub-tribes from around the country. This was part of the celebration of the International Rural Women’s Day, and the Indigenous Peoples Month. In 2012, there were supposed to be policy developments which were hoped to address the issues articulated by the indigenous women – new mining policy, new guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent, among others, the new Framework on Bangsamoro. But how do these policies affect the lives of indigenous communities, particularly women? These were the questions they asked, and different answers were explored. Joining the indigenous women in their discussions were friends and allies as well as resource persons from different government agencies such as National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Philippine Commission on Women, Department of Social Works and Development. In this publication, we share the highlights of the discussions, with the hope that friends and networks can join in and continue the conversations with us, and sharpen the debate on how these policies are even relevant to the lives of the indigenous women; and if not, how then to make them. The 2012 Declaration articulates the different issues and concerns of the indigenous women, and is being shared to enjoin solidarity and collective action among us advocates, and fellow resisters against discrimination, marginalization, and commercialization of natural resources, and of life. On October 18, right in the middle of the gathering, Juvy Capion, a B’laan woman leader, was brutally killed, along with her 2 sons, and injured her 4 year old daughter. Juvy, along with her husband Daguil, was very active in campaigning against Xstrata Mining Company and the Tampakan Copper Project. The news of the massacre was received with a lot of grief and anger among the participants, especially that among them were survivors themselves of killings, threats and other forms of harassment. This made them even more resolved to be stronger and more determined in their struggle for their rights, for their lives. LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) along with Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and Pambansang Kongreso ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), commit to continue their support, and their solidarity to the future actions of the indigenous women of this gathering. This publication hopes to reach out to more organizations, institutions and individuals who will support, and be part of the growing movement of indigenous women and advocates working towards a more inclusive, nurturing, non-discriminatory, just and sustainable future.
by judy a. pasimio, LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) April 2013