Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2010

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chair, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-GABRIELA USA, fire.nyc@gmail.com, 925-726-5768

Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women
3rd Annual Pinay Herstories in NYC ——

New York, NY–On April 22, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) held its annual Pinay HERstories at Bluestockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side, Manhattan. The well-attended event, part of GABRIELA USA’s national showcase, explored the Filipina experience through personal narratives, focusing on the important and often-silenced issue of violence against women.

During the event, audience members participated by reading aloud the seven categories of violence against women and children GABRIELA USA is highlighting in their campaign “iVow to Fight Violence Against Women”– 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. An impressive lineup of Pinay performers from New York, New Jersey, Seattle, California, and the Philippines gave voice and depth to these issues sharing their experiences through poetry, music, and spoken word.

CUNY Hunter student and a first time performer, Rosalyn Jimenez, shared a poem about the disgust and shame that she feels when she is harassed by men in the street. Kristine Juntura, a 17-year old student at Archbishop Molloy High School, performed an emotional piece about a story of a friend who was in an abusive relationship. Joanna Mariano, another 15-year old high school student, dedicated a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” to any woman who has ever felt insignificant or weak, reminding us that we are all beautiful.

“Although this year’s theme was a bit more serious than past years, it also featured the cultural and creative work of young Filipinas which showed the audience and our community that it is important to talk about this important issue with our younger sisters, siblings and children,” Jackie Mariano, one of the organizers of the event stated.

Laurel Fantauzzo took us back through time in a funny yet poignant nonfiction essay, as she tried to make sense of the history of violence in her family that has been passed down from mother to mother. Maria Avetria and FiRE members Hanalei Ramos and Melanie Dulfo also performed, sharing poetry that directly pointed to globalism and militarism as main factors that have forced many Filipinas into prostitution.

Valerie Francisco, FiRE’s chairperson, extended an invitation to the audience to become more involved in their communities especially on the issue of violence. She noted that Gabriela Women’s Party in the upcoming Philippine elections will be raising this issue at the forefront of their campaign and that our work echoes the brave women who are blazing trails in stopping violence against women in such a patriarchal culture. Francisco reminded the audience that everyone in the audience can take a stand as well, “Exploitation of undocumented workers and ICE raids in our community is violence too! Let’s take a stand together on May 1st, we ask you to march for genuine U.S. immigration reform at Union Square!”

A surprise performance by representatives of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Jen Awingan and Jill Carino, who are participating at the annual UN Forum on Indigenous People, engaged the audience through an indigenous song and dance in Ilocano. Rogue Pinay of 1st Quarter Storm closed the night off with poetry, interpretive dance, and hip-hop. Her work addressed violence against women in a global, capitalist context. Audience members moved and danced while shouting, “Makibaka, huwag matakot!” along with the hip-hop artist. The night concluded on an energetic note, as audience members and performers alike shouted their participation in the “iVOW” campaign.

On its 3rd run of Pinay Herstories, the audience and FiRE members are reminded of how important and significant all women creative spaces and events are to bring to light the issues that are pressing in their lives. The event brought violence into the center of the dialogue and encouraged the audience to take up violence as a community issue, not just an individual problem. “We need to keep talking about violence against women and children. We need to keep creating spaces that empower women and put their stories in the forefront,” Mariano continued.

Pinay HERstories is a part of 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.

Join FiRE on May Day!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
12:00pm – 4:00pm
UNION SQUARE 14th St. & Broadway, Manhattan

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