Following is from Vernie Yocogan-Diano’s column “Violence against indigenous women related to land rights“:
Mining as a concrete form of development aggression imposes greater violence against indigenous women. We are displaced from our major role in sustainable agricultural production, conservation of resources and subsistence food production. We are displaced from our role as holders of traditional or indigenous knowledge including medicine and passers of that knowledge to the future generation. . . Mining as development aggression disintegrates our indigenous sociopolitical systems that enable mutual support and pursue community integrity, which includes the protection of women and children from various forms of violence.
Yocogan-Diano is the chair of Innabuyog, an organization of indigenous women in the Cordilleras, a province in the northern Philippines. Her words illustrate how intimately marginalized women are affected by factors like militarization and corporate mining. The stories emerge, of polluted waters and communities lost as women are displaced from ancestral lands.
Feminist author Linda Hirshman recently wrote a Washington Post article lamenting how feminism has lost its focus, as seen in Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Democratic primary. The writer faults feminists who practice intersectional analysis for diminishing gender into “just one commitment among many.” Hirshman also goes for a trifecta when she credits white, middle-class women with starting the movement.
How could Hirshman’s restrictive concept of feminism begin to address the issues of development aggression raised by Yocogan-Diano? Would feminicides like the case of Honiefaith Ratilla Kamiosawa even hit Hirshman’s radar as a feminist issue, as worthy as the glass ceiling and the high cost of daycare?
I come from a country which has had not one but two female presidents. Corazon Aquino, the widow of a man who would have been president, was inaugurated in 1986. Current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of a former president, has been in office since 2001.
Part of me is still proud that on the two occasions that Filipinos deposed dictators, it was women who took on leadership.
But this also means that I have seen how little merely having a woman in leadership does for marginalized Filipinas, especially those in vulnerable groups. Because to truly effect change for Filipinas, a leader needs to go beyond the band-aid solutions of training and capacity-building programs, now the cornerstone of government’s women in development policy. S/he needs to address the various root causes of women’s marginalization, which include:
- conversion of agricultural land
- neoliberal economic development policies, such as the emphasis on exporting goods and labor
- mining as “development aggression”
On the surface, these issues might not seem particularly “feminist.” But the ties emerge through the application of Hirshman’s bete noir, intersectional analysis. The essence of intersectionality is that different forms of oppression, such as those based on factors like gender, class, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., all create an interrelated system of oppression.
Brownfemipower beautifully lays out here how intersectional feminist analysis involves creating spaces for those who have been left out. Intersectionality brings women into the movement, and by extension, shifts the feminist movement’s goals:
when a poor, ‘illegal,’ imprisoned Latina is centered in a feminist movement is that the goals and priorities of that movement necessarily CHANGES. The shifting of goals and priorities to benefit the weakest and most disempowered of us all does not kick rich white women out of a movement it, in fact, makes those women stronger.
Since its inception in 1990, Innabuyog has worked to include the concerns of marginalized women in the Philippine feminist movement. So in addition to daycare centers and livelihood training, Innabuyog members identified structural adjustment programs and the GATT policies as having severe deleterious effects on indigenous women. In one province, the group took the leadership role in a campaign against pesticides, which cause more women harm, given the relationship of indigenous women to their land. Innabuyog also carried on the militant indigenous tradition, dating back to the 1900s, of opposing mining destruction.
What happens to Philippine feminist movement when the women of Innabuyog are centered? An intersectional analysis of the situation of indigenous Cordillera wome highlights the failures of the government’s program for addressing “women’s concerns.” That indigenous women are still fighting to have their concerns recognized almost two decades after President Corazon Aquino, and seven years into the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is quite telling.
It is very apt that the indigenous women’s coalition takes its name from the concept of “innabuyog.” The concept “innabuyog” itself refers to community, to being of service to one another without expecting any return, of working towards the welfare of the entire community rather than just oneself. As Vernie Yocogan-Diano puts it:
We Kankanaeys of Mountain Province say, “Adi tako bukudan di gawis.” Don’t monopolize the good. Concepts of sharing the common good are also seen in the practice of innabuyog, ub-ubbo, alluyon and binnadang. These are practices among Cordillera indigenous peoples of cooperation, labor exchange and mutual support especially in times of crisis. These practices are even stronger among indigenous women.
The only agreement I share with Hirshman is a point she makes only tangentially — that coalitions are vital. I strongly believe in the transformative power of collective action, and of acting towards a common good. But coalitions are forged not by gathering women together and dictating how group action should be towards supposedly common goals. Goals like “let’s get a woman elected president.”
More often than not, feminist goals and action have been defined by a group of women who have never had to fertilize fields by hand. Who never dodged bullets fired by government soldiers. Who would never have to risk leaving families and communities to work as domestic workers in foreign lands.
Coalitions start in deciding what the goals should be in the first place, in analyzing what issues affect women. Coalitions start with also listening to the women of Innabuyog, the women of Migrante, the women of Amihan. Because much work still needs to be done.
And no single group of women, certainly not the most privileged ones, should have a monopoly on the good.