Violence against women

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

Nov. 25 marks the United Nations’ International Day for the elimination of violence against women with the 2021 theme: Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now! I found myself struggling to write about this topic; however, as a survivor myself, I felt the need to rise to the occasion in the hopes of empowering other women survivors who have gone through the same nightmare with the assurance that telling their story is only the beginning of their freedom.

As a survivor, my own personal experiences have never driven me to go to the extreme – the ultra feminist roaming about life through declarations of being able to do things better than men. Theoretically and including sheer common sense, understanding one’s uniqueness still enables me to comprehend that men and women have their own specific strengths, all of which deserve to be celebrated in their own respective ways.

The United Nations’ study shows us that one out of three women has been abused in her lifetime and in times of crisis, such as the times we are in today, such cases of violence against women have risen even more. But what exactly is the perception of Filipinos when it comes to violence against women? At most, how much do we actually know about it beyond the physical abuses that are most of the time portrayed, especially in movies ? Of course this is of great impact; however, it should also be known that violence against women comes in many other forms, including food insecurity. Yes, it is such.

Women are more often than not the safe keepers of the home. We are not only “in charge” of making our homes a pleasant place to be in but rather, mini economists within the unit that does her best to stretch whatever needs to be stretched by making ends meet. On the larger scale of things, imagine having to have to go through a pandemic, make ends meet and suffer psychological abuse while on top of it all, be horribly deprived of resources to get oneself out of a situation due to fear and stigma. For me, it is the stigma of being an actual victim that takes much longer to overcome before a woman starts to see herself not just as a survivor but most of all, a woman who can thrive.

Education, as you know and as I continuously harp on, is the very basis for a better future for women who have gone through violence. In this sector, for example, girls still struggle with completing their education due to lack of basic needs, making them fall behind their potentials and placing them in very vulnerable life situations. A lack of education has also been co-related to the lack of other basic services such as clean water, where young girls stop going to school due to sickness and infection. Data based on a new report by UN Women stated that only one out of ten women seek help from the police and, as sad as this may be, it still clearly shows that many women around the world remain to suffer from such abuse.

It is therefore time to rise as women by helping other women and, in the case of violence, we must first give them courage to tell their story. In my own personal experience, I still remember how fearful I was to be in this dark place and it was the kind of fear that also included shame. This is exactly why we must help women understand that violence against women can only be eliminated by working together and helping build programs that will not only protect them but also include them in progress. Justice, social sector awareness building and sufficient financing that is dedicated to women’s rights is the future for women who have gone through violence.

Health is another sector that needs proper channeling and begins even in early childhood education so that more girls can go to school. In the past we have often heard of inter-agency relationships – an understanding that some co-advocates and I had continually tried to impress in the minds of Filipinos in order for them to understand how their government and its legislators work to ensure better opportunities, especially for the most marginalized. Today, we continue to press on the whole-of-nation approach that espouses both government and civic society to join forces for a more comfortable life for all.

As we unite for the next 16 days (from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10) to end violence against women and girls, let us place in the forefront the need for better awareness so that we can in turn learn to identify the root causes of violence through dialogue, programs and better legislation dedicated for survivors, both here and abroad, to achieve an equal future for all women. Let’s orange the world for a better future for women free from violence.


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