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Archive for the ‘women’ Category

It’s easy to understand the appeal of microcredit. Poor women from the Global South use loans as small as $20 to start businesses and lift themselves from poverty. The creditors make a profit when the loans are repaid. Win-win.

What do they say about things that look too good to be true?

A whopping 90 to 99 percent of these loans are paid back with interest, another shining indicator of microcredit’s success. But there is an ugly side to ensuring repayment, where poor women are made to police one another and punish defaulters with collective acts of aggression.

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I hear this said a lot even among people who describe themselves as liberal and progressive. Even among people who identify as feminists. That capitalism as an economic system may be flawed, but it’s certainly the best system that we have.

The best for whom?

It’s certainly not the best system for the workers at the Phils Jeon Garment factory at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in the Philippines. For demanding living wages,

the women strikers were hog-tied, blindfolded, and loaded into a waiting truck. The men dismantled their makeshift tents and loaded them into the truck along with the strikers’ other belongings. The workers were dropped outside the gate of the Cavite EPZ.

They were arrested because the strike was holding up production, and subcontractors needed to meet pricepoints and delivery deadlines.

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justicewalks’s moving reflections on her coming medical procedure (h/t bint) had me contemplating my own body. Specifically, the four-inch scar that runs from by bellybutton down my abdomen. I thought that the scar had long healed.

When my personal care physician here in the US first saw the scar, she asked if I had a c-section. So I told her the story of when I had surgery at age 16 to have an ovarian cyst removed. Of how my physician mom was allowed to sit in on the operation as a courtesy, and how she requested the surgeon do a horizontal incision for faster healing.

And how the surgeon shook his head, said “Girls should not wear bikinis,” and sliced my belly with the scalpel.

To this day, my mom shrugs the incident off. The surgeon was old and old-fashioned, and isn’t it great that I didn’t have cancer anymore. Well, sure. And I didn’t wear bikinis either. I stopped thinking about it.

I was surprised when my personal care physician shook her head in disbelief. “Wow,” she said. “That doctor is an asshole.” Continue Reading

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Eugenia Baja’s family began to receive worrisome text messages towards the end of 2007. First, the 25-year-old Filipina domestic worker in Riyadh said she could not send money for Christmas. Then in January 2008, Eugenia pleaded to her brother, “Please help me. Please find me.”

Eugenia texted that she felt cold all the time. Hungry. She did not know what was being done to her. She felt like she was losing her mind.

Then in February came the news that Eugenia had died in a Saudi Arabia hospital of an unspecified illness. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs later changed the story, saying Eugenia committed suicide by banging her head against the bathroom tiles in her employer’s bathroom. But Riyadh autopsy documents listed her cause of death as an ulcer, and noted that her body showed signs of starvation.

Eugenia was one of the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country every day to work overseas. An estimated 75 percent of them are female, making Filipinas the country’s largest export. People like Eugenia are also the country’s most lucrative export, generating remittances of over US$15 billion in 2007.

This state-sanctioned labor migration is therefore a key component of the country’s economic development program. Despite the fact that too many women are coming home in caskets.

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In the early 1990s, seventeen-year-old Nancy Navalta burst into Philippine track and field, running the 100 meter dash at 11.44 seconds. It’s an even more amazing feat considering how green she was. Nancy had no training. She just ran on sandy beaches with a sack of rocks slung over her shoulders.

Newspapers lauded this daughter of a fisherman, this girl who went from being a stonepicker from Luna to star athlete. Her early wins made her eligible to join the national training program. Some commentators began to talk about the Atlanta Olympics.

Nancy never did get to Atlanta. The idea that a female newcomer can run so fast, coupled with features like her “flat chest,” “muscled physique,” and a “wispy mustache” raised suspicions that Nancy Navalta was male.

“Nobody noticed me when I was losing,” Nancy later said in a 2004 interview.* “But when I started winning, they began questioning my gender.”

She was forced to undergo medical tests. Then came the Philippine Sports Commission ruling that Nancy is “genetically male.” Continue Reading

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In the spirit of picking your battles, I really tried to ignore the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ threat to deny communion and to campaign against Filipino politicians supporting reproductive health bills. But I’m still ticked off about it, and Karnythia’s post on bodily autonomy and Renee’s musings on patriarchal control over women’s fertility have me thinking.

Growing up in the Philippines, I did not always notice how tenuous the concept of bodily autonomy was. And I’m not even talking about abortion, which is illegal over there. (There’s no divorce law either.)

When you’re a woman in the Philippines, social institutions around you continually collude to erode any autonomy you have over your body.

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Over the past three months, have you “experienced hunger and did not have anything to eat?”

This was a question from the Social Weather Stations, a non-profit social research station in the Philippines. Their findings show that more Filipino families are going hungry more often. More Filipino families are answering the above question with “a few times.” When asked how often they went hungry, a growing number of Filipinos simply responded, “All the time.”

And Filipina women are bearing the brunt of this hunger. According to Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza:

It is the women who are hit hardest by the food crisis. Mothers who make up the majority of those lining up for cheap NFA rice, are most often, the last to eat.

The Arroyo government has linked the Philippine rice and food crisis to a larger “world food crisis” as well as a “global price crisis” caused by soaring fuel charges. Her response is to call for “comprehensive agriculture program” to prioritize food production. She also helpfully suggested that the poor could mix rice with yams or switch to cheaper cereals in order to stave off hunger.

However, the seeds of this crisis were planted much earlier than Arroyo suggests.

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