This year’s commemoration of the International Women’s Day takes place in the context of women’s prophetic stance in resisting all that robs life of human dignity.
In a study by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), it showed that in Lanao del Sur, seven out of 10 people are poor while in Maguindanao, Northern Samar, Saranggani, Sulu, Bukidnon, Zamboanga del Norte – half of the population is considered poor. Among women, •One out of four Filipino women is considered poor”. In labor workforce, 57% of women account for those who are salary and wage earners, 27% are self employed without any paid employee, 14% are employed family workers and 2% are employer in own family operated farm or business. 1,018 million women are into manufacturing mostly in electronics and garments. Among OFW’s there are 7.43 million OFWs deployed around the world. Six out of 10 are women.
The case of Jennifer Aresgado Dalquez who went to the United Arab Emirates in 2011 clearly describes the situation of women today. Forced by poverty to work abroad, she left her family and worked in UAE where her first employer attempted to rape her. After this ordeal, a friend offered her another work.
Despite the danger she faced, she took another chance by working as a cashier, then as an assistant to a doctor. While working as an assistant, which required her to work for just three days a week, she took side jobs by offering cleaning services. An Emirati police contacted her to clean his house. And it was there where she experienced another attempted rape at knifepoint. Knowing skills on self-defense, she fought back and accidentally stabbed her assailant. She was arrested in December 2012 and was eventually meted out the death penalty. Through the help of Migrante, Jennifer’s case was brought to proper authorities and to the public’s attention.
Filipino women continue to live and die in poverty. Forced by such a circumstance, many have fallen prey to the evils of exploitation and abuse of their employers. Peasant women continue to live on the impacts of landlessness, land conversion, land grabbing and large and extractive mining. Nine out of 10 peasant families are landless.
As for basic and social services, nothing has changed in the poorly delivered social services for the people, especially women. With the looming privatization of public hospitals, more poor women are threatened with decreased health services.
From January 2005 to October 2016 there were 153, 412 cases of violation of RA9262 or Anti-Violence against women and their children Act. This would translate to 1 case of violence every 14 minutes and 36 seconds.
Human right violations continue to haunt women and their kith and kin. Heightened militarization persist in far-flung rural poor communities. Alternative educational systems that are set up for indigenous children are demonized and their leaders killed, harassed or threatened. Schools are burnt down by military men, and children and their families are displaced. In fact, many of our indigenous peoples are either displaced, killed, harassed or vilified.
Like Rizpah of old, we smell the stench of death.
Like Rizpah of old, we dare to take risk.
Like Rizpah of old, we will stand burned in the scorching heat f the sun
Like Rizpah of old, we will protect our young from further violence and death.
“Like millions of women through the centuries, Rizpah, caught up in the holocaust of national strife and war, found herself bereft of husband and children and was left to fight a battle against loneliness and poverty. The background of Rizpah’s empty heart and home is plainly stated. Saul, who became conspicuous for his pride and self-will, broke an oath that had been made with the Gibeonites by Joshua. Although the idolatrous Gibeonites had deceived Joshua, yet the treaty with them had been made, and an oath not to destroy them by the sword was sealed in the Lord’s name. But when Saul came to power he set about the obliteration of Israel’s enemies, and treating the Gibeonites as a heathen settlement in a holy land, endeavored to annihilate them. As soon as Saul met his death on Mount Gilboa, the Gibeonites sought for redress for the profanation of the oath given by Joshua.
A severe famine lasting for three years overtook the land of Israel, and David was divinely informed that the famine was in consequence of Saul’s slaughter of the oath-protected Gibeonites. They demanded by way of compensation that the seven sons of Saul should be hung up “before the Lord” in expiation for what had been done there. It thus came about that innocent children had to bear heavy punishment for the sin of their father. The five sons of Saul by Merab, who were cared for by Michal after her sister’s death, and Saul’s two sons by Rizpah were taken and hanged upon a hilltop for all to see. They were cruelly slaughtered. . . . . ”
A victim of state violence, Rizpah’s sons were slaughtered and made to rot in the midst of the sun and hungry vultures as a way of further humiliating and degrading Saul despite being killed in the battle against David. To further hurt Saul’s family, his enemies asked that his sons be handed to them so that they may kill him violently as a revenge to Saul. Giving in to the demand, David, gave two of Saul’s sons with Rizpah and five others with Merab. After their death, the sons of Saul were never buried but were instead left to rot in the sun where vultures can feast over them.
Rizpah’s act was a refusal to the further desecration of her son’s bodies (2 Samuel 21:8-14). She put on a sackcloth and guarded what remains of her sons from harshness of the sun’s heat, the coldness of rain and the threat of vultures awaiting.
Rizpah’s act was an act of resistance. She never wavered on the thought that staying with her son will protect them from further harm and from experiencing death time and time again. She risked her own life by identifying herself as the mothers of her son. Saul’s enemies could have killed her, too!
Rizpah’s act was an act against the state! Challenging David and his cohorts of what wrong use of power can make monsters out of their “personas.”.How power has made them ruthless and heartless leaders of the land. How power victimized mothers and daughters and sisters of those whom they chose to slaughter.
Rizpah’s act was a statement of courage and bravery. Even if she faced the risk of being arrested and killed, she stood by the side of her sons. Mothers will always choose to stay beside their children in plenty and in want, in danger and in safety. Despite being killed, Rizpah acknowledged that they can still be further harmed and her presence is the only way by which she can ensure that they are guarded. She did not care whether people came and arrested her. She did not care whether she would be harassed or intimidated. All the time, she stood her ground and never left her beloved children.
Rizpah’s act revealed a morally bankrupt leadership during her time. David could have saved the lives of Saul’s children despite the latter being his enemy. He could have spared the lives of innocent children who have nothing to do with their father’s shortcomings. But nay, David allowed these violations to happen under his own watch. Not a sign of compassion. Not a glimpse of care and concern.
In our Resistance is Redemption and Liberation
Rizpah of old, you are breathing and alive
you are angered by each act of violation and oppression
Rizpah of old, you are throbbing and pulsating
you are marching with women in their fight against exploitation
Rizpah of old, you are humming and shouting
you are with us in our marches singing with our songs of protests
Rizpah of old, you’re fist are clenched and up
you are with us in our journey towards liberation.
Perhaps, Rizpah, was not able to save her children from death. But in standing her ground and staying with her children – she made a statement that violence and death of innocents have their limits. And that it wouldn’t be allowed time and time again. Time will come that people will stand up individually and most importantly collectively – to assert their rights and fight for the rights of those who have been maimed and silenced by a wicked and evil system or structure.
This International Women’s Day Commemoration bears witness to the ever militant, ever alive and collective struggle of the women’s movement in the Philippines to a prophetic engagement with the powers that be and with structures that bring destruction to the life that the Great Spirit has willed for all of us.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, Nanay Celia Veloso and Nanay Alicia Dalquez who are now speaking publicly about the life of their children Mary Jane and Jennifer, who respectively are now in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates facing death penalty. Mary Jane Veloso and Jennifer Dalquez are both overseas Filipino workers who were imprisoned. Mary Jane, was imprisoned for being a victim of illegal drug trade and Jennifer, for accidentally stabbing an Emirati police who hired her for cleaning services and attempted to rape her.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, mothers of victims of the current government’s war on drugs are now speaking and telling their stories of victimization and violence.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, peace advocates continue to call for the resumption and continuation of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, women are denouncing the ill and grave effects of neoliberal economic globalization that continues to kill our women workers, peasant women, indigenous women, youth and children.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, women are denouncing extra-judicial killings and other political killings committed against those who dissent and who dare speak out against government policies and programs that are detrimental to people.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, women are in strong opposition against the passage of the Death Penalty Bill and the Lowering the Age of Criminal Responsibility of Children!
In the Spirit of Rizpah, we demand for Delivery of Basic and Social Services.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, we will not keep quiet. We will stand on our grounds. We will demand for Justice and Peace even as we never get tire of working for Justice and Peace.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, we will raise high our voices, we will raise our clench fists, we will sing songs of Hope and we will never tire of marching.
In the Spirit of Rizpah, the ecumenical women will be in solidarity with women and men, youth and children – in our common quest for a world where justice and peace embrace each other, and our lived realities in our time. ##
Ms. Darlene Marquez Caramanzana
Photo grab from http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/rizpah/