NYC Fil-Am Women and Their Allies Break the Culture of Silence to Fight Violence Against Women and Children

For Immediate Release
March 28, 2010
Contact: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, FiRE NYC, fire.nyc@gmail.com
The entire Healing Voices audience and their iVOW to Fight VOW pledges!

NYC Fil-Am Women and Their Allies Break the Culture of Silence to Fight Violence Against Women and Children
New York, NY – On March 25, 2010, New York City based organization Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), a member organization of GABRIELA-USA, shared a stage with ally organizations Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Sakhi for South Asian Women at Bluestockings Bookstore in the Lower East Side for the event “Healing Voices: Breaking the Silence Together”.  The event was a unique collaborative project between FiRE and their allies which aimed to address violence against women and children in their respective communities.
Speakers at the event shared stories, poems, and for some, painful firsthand accounts of violence against women and children, and the different cultural, political and economic factors that lead to such violence. Brandon King of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement read a poem, after which he reflected that violence against women is not only a women’s issue, but also an issue faced by men.  He urged men to take responsibility and initiative to end it. Elaine Villasper, a member of babae San Francisco, another one of the four GABRIELA-USA organizations, shared her migration story from the Philippines.  Through powerful storytelling, she recounted the violences women may face as immigrants.
Roberto Meneses and Felix Ortiz of Jornaleros Unidos de Woodside, a grassroots organization of day laborers in Queens, offered a personal story about a family member in Mexico who faced sexual harassment in public spaces.  Meneses described several programs that have been implemented in order to reduce the occurrence of institutionalized sexual harassment, including creating separate spaces on public transportation for men and women, and establishing youth programs that bring awareness to violence against women. Tara Sarath, an intern for Sakhi for South Asian Women, shared the resources and services that their organization offers to survivors of domestic violence, men and women alike.
Truthful poems about young women who faced violence were shared by members of Chainless Voices, a youth collective that uses their artistic talents for positive community change; Alison Roh Park of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development; and Tahani, representing the community of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.  Their poetry celebrated the strength women have in face of violence. FiRE members Arlene Rodrigo, Valerie Francisco, Melanie Dulfo, Lolan Sevilla, Anna Sian, and Hanalei Ramos also participated in the program.  Through their thoughts and their stories, they urged everyone to always critically explore definitions of violence against women.
The FiRE women also brought awareness to the illegal arrest, detention, sexual violence, and torture of 43 healthcare workers in the Philippines.  “Of the 43 healthcare workers who are being illegally detained by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 26 of them are women and 2 of them are pregnant,” stated Valerie Francisco, chairperson of FiRE.  “Violence against women is a grave human rights violation.  We will not be silent until the 43 have been freed.”
“Healing Voices” was an event that ran concurrently with GABRIELA-USA’s national campaign to end violence against women.  “iVOW to Fight VAW” is a comprehensive campaign that addresses violence against women as issues of sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. The campaign, which launched in February 2010, urges people to take a stand and commit to ending violence against women. The night concluded with members of the audience taking public vows to fight violence against women.  The event was also a celebration of the centennial of International Working Women’s Day and the one year anniversary of GABRIELA-USA’s formation.
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