The headline was doubly disturbing, coming as it did at the start of Women’s Month: A woman died a few days after a man posing as an Internet technician bludgeoned her and her year-old son with a hammer before fleeing with valuables. The baby died on the way to the hospital, and his mother was found to have been raped before being left to die in the family home in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The assailant remains at large.
Among other ills that continue to hound Filipino women—including the overdue implementation of the Reproductive Health Law—it is violence against women (VAW) that is particularly reprehensible, being literally a life-or-death issue. And it remains very much a reality, according to data released by the National Statistics Office from the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey: One in five (or 20 percent of) Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence, while one in 10 (or 10 percent) has experienced sexual violence. Considering the culture of silence and shame that surrounds VAW, the numbers can be much higher.
With men as the main perpetrators of VAW, a new organization called MOVE becomes, well, a moving development.
MOVE stands for Men Opposed to VAW Everywhere, and is composed of men committed to end this scourge by speaking out against it, recruiting other men to fight it, and forming partnerships with other groups and government agencies to establish a resource network that can help women affected by it. Partly organized by the Philippine Commission on Women in 2006, MOVE now has chapters in the provinces of Quezon, Aklan, Sultan Kudarat, Northern Samar and Southern Leyte. The National Police Commission and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have also established their own MOVE groups.
A closer look at the dynamics of MOVE Aklan is particularly instructive on how preventing VAW is more a community effort than a personal issue that victims are often left to grapple with on their own. Organized in 2007, MOVE Aklan has 270 members, many of them working for the provincial and municipal governments of Kalibo, Malinao and Nabas. Students and police officers count among MOVE volunteer members aged 17-60.
Franklin Quimpo, the first MOVE Aklan president, remembers the early years: “Organizing and expanding membership was a classic networking move. I phoned a friend who encouraged a couple of his colleagues, who also called on his coworkers, and pretty soon we were meeting in a street bar or in a member’s house in the company of a local mayor, a lawyer, a policeman, a media person, and a youth leader.”
To raise VAW awareness, MOVE Aklan holds gender awareness sessions that target the police, barangay officials and employees of local government units. It has been observed that when faced by cases of domestic abuse, these groups often counsel the battered woman to make peace with her abusive partner “for the sake of the children.” Meanwhile, despite barangay guidelines on how to handle complaints of VAW, most local officials still look the other way: “Usapang mag-asawa” (a private matter between couples) remains the default attitude.
It is a harmful mindset that MOVE-Aklan seeks to shatter by partnering with government agencies such as Tesda, the Departments of Agrarian Reform, of Environment and Natural Resources, and of Education, and the Philippine Statistics Authority, which can reach out to their respective constituents even in far-flung barangays.
MOVE Aklan makes extensive use of radio and social networking as well as special media such as banners and posters and interpersonal strategies to raise public awareness on VAW. During the annual 18-day campaign to end violence against women, MOVE Aklan encourages government employees to join motorcades and marches, with participants bearing placards that denounce VAW. Last year, a photo exhibit on the theme “Empowering Women in Aklan” was put up at a Kalibo mall, with the active participation of the group.
For its efforts, MOVE Aklan was considered one of the nation’s most outstanding men’s advocacy group by MOVE Philippines.
“Sometimes, it takes a man to talk to other men for the men to listen,” Pamela Reynaldo, a mother and employee, said as she observed a MOVE motorcade in 2015.
We hope similar moves will be made in other sectors of the community. After all, women’s empowerment need not be a battle of the sexes or a threat to men, but a communal sharing of responsibility that can only be enriching for everyone.
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