GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones in Building Filipino Women’s Power

For Immediate Release

March 29, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, chair@gabusa.org

GABRIELA-USA Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary and Milestones

in Building Filipino Women’s Power

Launch of iVOW Campaign, International Women’s Alliance, and

Freedom for Morong 43 Amongst their Successes in 2010

Seattle– On March 26, 2011, five member organizations of Gabriela USA, Samahan ng  Kababaihan (SAMAKA) and BABAE San Francisco, Pinay sa Seattle, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) New York and Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGAw) Los Angeles came together to hold their second National Chapter Council meeting to assess their accomplishments in 2010 and plan their advancement for the next year.

National Chapter Council members represented their organizations of Filipino women who consist of mothers, working women, professionals, and students. The National Council reviewed their organizational growth in 2010 and their main campaign IVOW v. VAW (Violence Against Women), which reached and moved hundreds of women in their homes, schools, and communities–  to pledge to raise their voices against the the different forms of violence inflicted on women.

On March 29, 2011, GABRIELA-USA across the U.S. celebrates their 2 year anniversary and the successes of the last year which include:

  • Successful Launch of IVOW vs. VAW (Violence Against Women) in 4 Major Cities in the U.S.
  • 33% growth in membership and formation of SAMAKA- an association of Filipina mothers, elders, and working women
  • Mobilizing over 50 members and allies to the Montreal International Women’s Conference held in August 2010

Forwarding a truly internationalist perspective in building sisterhood and solidarity across the globe, GABRIELA USA was instrumental in organizing the Montreal International Women’s Conference (MIWC) and the formation of the International Women’s Alliance in Canada and also participated in the International Alliance of Migrants and Refugees activities in Mexico.  GABRIELA members throughout the U.S. also joined with other community organizations and alliances in protesting the wrongful detention of the Morong 43 in the Philippines, half of which were women.

In 2011, GABRIELA USA will be launching a national research project on the situation and issues of Filipino women in the US, continuing their IVOW campaign, and focusing on the growth and expansion of their alliance.  This summer, GABRIELA-USA will be sending delegates to the First General Assembly of the International Women’s Alliance which will be held in Manila, Philippines.  GABRIELA’s next General Assembly will be in March 2012.

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Grassroots Organizations Take a Stand Against Gender-Based Violence through Cultural Activism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, fire.nyc@gmail.com

Grassroots Organizations Take a Stand Against Gender-Based Violence through Cultural Activism

January 28, 2011

New York, NY – One hundred people braved Tuesday night’s sudden east coast chill to join Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), and Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, and support violence against women awareness.  The opening reception for Unpacking Violence, an exhibit at bOb Bar and Gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, featured a total of twenty contributing artists who showcased their work and took a stand for women’s lives.

The crowd, a mix of local artists, students, friends, and community leaders, danced nonstop thanks to DJs Soozee and Unkle Chip.  There was no indicator that the Unpacking Violence exhibit was postponed earlier this year due censorship issues.  “This exhibit taking place is an amazing feat.  We wanted to run this exhibit in the fall, but our initial sponsor censored our first attempt.  After consulting with our community and the participating artists, we decided to no longer work with that sponsor, because this collection was meant to be presented in its entirety.  Our objective as a women’s rights organization is to educate our community about the different forms of violence experienced by women.  How could we allow these women to be silenced again?” said Arlene Rodrigo, Cultural Director of FiRE and coordinator for the Unpacking Violence exhibit.

Some of the work featured at Unpacking Violence was created during FiRE’s Movement to Uncover Self Expression (MUSE) program (made possible by the generosity of the Citizens Committee for New York City). The MUSE program is a branch of GABRIELA USA’s national iVOW to End VAW campaign which expands the definition and discourse surrounding violence against women (VAW).  By creating spaces to foster awareness on the issue of violence against women, iVOW to End VAW hopes to combat its occurrence and break the culture of silence around VAW.

“It’s amazing to see the support toward ending violence against women, “ said Candice Sering, main curator and contributing artist for Unpacking Violence. “To be able to transform the trauma and pain experienced into these works of art, removes the issue from the private lives of survivors, and makes it conversant with the public – our community.”
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FiRE’s Unpacking Violence Exhibit Tomorrow – January 25

Aloha FiRE pamiliya!

Thank you for an amazing FiRE retreat weekend! You all continue to inspire me and give me the love and strength that makes me feel whole. I love you all!

I am emailing you to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help spread the word for tomorrow’s Art Exhibit. Most of you know that our show was cancelled last year in October and was censored by 1199 SEIU. As a militant women’s organization we will not remain silent! Our political objective is to educate our community that there are different forms of violence that women all over the world are facing. Through our IVOW to Fight Violence Against Women campaign we as FiRE help to educate our community and encourage them to take action!

Please forward the below email to ALL your family and friends and give one last push for this very important event!

PLEASE RE POST on FaceBook!

Our very own FiRE sisters, Arlene, Candice, Sara, Amihan, and Julie will have there artwork up!!!

Please help spread the word and invite all your family and friends!

Below is the Facebook invite that you can forward to your friends!
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/event.php?eid=150851751633919
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please forward widely…….

Tomorrow night! Tomorrow night!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 6pm-10pm
Unpacking Violence Opening Gallery Exhibit
bOb Bar and Gallery
235 Eldridge St.
(btwn Stanton and Houston)
New York, New York!

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment-Gabriela USA and community allied organizations, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development and Malcom X Grassroots Organization invite you to our “Unpacking Violence” opening gallery exhibit. FiRE’s Unpacking Violence gallery exhibit was inspired by GABRIELA-USA’s comprehensive national educational campaign VOW (Voices of Women) versus VAW (Violence Against Women). The art show aims to expand the definition, awareness, and discourse of violence against women (VAW) in order to break the culture of silence around this issue and to combat its occurrence.

Artists:
+ Sara Jimenez
+ Julie Jamora
+ Candice Sering
+ Mia Roman Hernandez
+ Arlene Rodrigo
+ Sophia Leung
+ Pedro Mata
+ Eloise Green
+ Amihan Doctor
+ Yul-san Liem

FiRE Honors LGBTQGNC Rights on National Lesbian Day in the Philippines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FiRE Honors LGBTQGNC Rights on National Lesbian Day in the Philippines

Reference: Irma Salvatierra Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
Email: fire.nyc@gmail.com

New York City – On December 8,  Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) celebrates and honors National Lesbian Day in the Philippines. This day was established at the first National Lesbian Rights Conference on December 6-8, 1996 in Silang, Cavite.  FiRE is committed to fighting for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Gender Non Conforming people (LGBTQGNC), and ending all forms of gender violence, exploitation, and oppression.  As an organization of Filipinas in the United States fighting for genuine democracy and national liberation in the Philippines, FiRE would like to honor and thank local New York City and Philippines-based organizations working tirelessly for the rights and safety of the LGBTQGNC community.

In the recent months, the United States has witnessed the tragic youth suicides caused by bullying and harassment.  It is vital to provide ongoing education for children, teens, adults, community workers, and the government resources to deconstruct homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia.  Communities should come to the new understanding that LGBTQGNC are entitled to live a life free from violence, as it is a human right.

Earlier this year, the Philippine – based organization, LESBOND, Lesbians for National Democracy,  launched an educational campaign which focused on creating understanding and awareness around homosexuality and homophobia.  The curriculum was initially meant for universities and the media, but has since been redeveloped for outreach to elementary school students. “The module describes the history, sociology and societal behavior that has sustained homophobia in the Philippines,” said LESBOND member, Julie Palaganas.

LESBOND continues to advocate for gender equality and democracy on the foundation that the place of women, including lesbian women, is in the struggle for genuine liberation.   Therefore, great reform must be made on various levels for LGBTQGNC people to acquire the freedom to express their sexuality and identity, create homes for homeless LGBTQGNC youth, access affordable health care and medical services, receive job security with partner benefits, and initiate policies for school and workplaces to be safe places for LGBTQGNC youth and adults.

Irma Bajar, Chairperson of FiRE states, “As a queer Filipina woman who has faced homophobia and heterosexism,  it’s important to unite and create an all-encompassing liberation movement.  We must ensure LGBTQGNC rights and commit to dismantling homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia.”

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No Security for Those Who Safeguard Our Health: The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Queens Nurses

Maria is a Filipina registered nurse who lives in Elmhurst, Queens. As part of the 16 Days to End Gender Based Violence campaign, we interviewed Maria about the closing of St. John’s Queens Hospital as a result of the economic crisis. Below is her oral history.

St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst closed on February 23, 2009. I don’t know how many people were laid off with me. Thousands, maybe. They said it was because of bankruptcy. St. John’s was a private hospital and it started to ask the federal government for help to survive the crisis, but they didn’t receive enough. Maybe $2 million. I’m not sure. The problem for the hospital was getting reimbursements, like from Medicare and Medicaid and other insurance companies. Mostly from insurance. If the insurance did not pay the hospital, well then walang pera/there’s no money. No money to pay for supplies, like linens, and instruments like catheters. How can you give service without the supply? And there are a lot of hospitals here. The federal government can’t give money to all the hospitals. It’s like you give all the services, but it doesn’t come back the same. You don’t get paid for the services you gave.

The hospital hired consultants who traveled from all over the country, like Texas, kung saan/wherever, to come see what the problem really is. How come there is no money? Ano talaga ang problema ng organization?/What is really the organization’s problem? But think about how many figures the consultant makes. We have to pay them still and provide amenities during their stay. The consultant stays for a year, then the hospital hires a new consultant again.

The whole hospital was affected when it closed. Everyone from top to bottom, even management. We were an 1199 hospital. Now, there are some people who work there since they were 18 years old, 20 years old. That was their home base until now when they are in their 60s. When the hospital closed, the retirement age is 62. So you get financially penalized for the unexpected closure na ‘yan. Let’s say you’re 61, at gusto mo na mag-retire/and you want to retire. There is a deduction in your retirement plan.  Instead of getting 100% of your benefits, you only get some. Not unless you go to another 1199 institution. But since you’re 61, who is going to hire you? It’s not our fault na nagsara ang ospital/that the hospital closed. Some were only short of turning 62 by 4 months, but there was still reduction sa retirement benefits nila.

I don’t know what happened to them. I think the hospital gave it anyway even if they were short a few months. I think they gave the whole benefits. What I’m talking about is if you’re older. Do you really wanna start a new job at 61? Who will hire you in this job market right now? There is also a freeze in hospital worker hiring. Meron akong kilala/I know someone, she used to be a clerk at St. John’s, but now she can’t find a job. She can only volunteer at a hospital and she lives off of unemployment benefits. She’s 50-something years old. What’s nice sometimes is that 1199 gives assistance in finding a hospital. They match you to an employer hospital. Pero ang problema diyan/But the problem with that is the older people, that they were forced to retire.  What can they do?

Tapos, you’re comparing benefits. St. John’s is an 1199 institution, right, so their medical benefits is different from NYSNA (New York State Nurses Association). Ngayon, with NYSNA, if you get a prescription alone or go to the doctor, meron kang co-payment/you have to pay a co-payment. Kaya ang mga kumare ko, sabi nila, “Ipasok mo na kami sa  _________ Hospital!”/So my girlfriends said, “Get us a job at _________ Hospital!” _________ Hospital is also an 1199 hospital, so if we get jobs there, we have no co-payments. They felt the hardship of the closing in the cost of their medication. I feel it in the bills I have to pay. I have to tighten my belt. But do we have a choice? No. Noon, pagsinabi mo na ikaw ay nurse, madali ang kumuha ng trabaho. Ngayon, oh…waiting list./Back then, when you say you’re a nurse, it was really easy to get a job. But now… you’re on a waiting list.

I already had another job at _______ Hospital. Actually, I was working at three hospitals at the time of the closing. So you have to get a per diem job.  Kaya nung nagsara/So when it closed, I was just lucky that I already had that job at ________. How about yung wala/those that didn’t have a per diem job? My kumare, if I didn’t get them the job at _________, where will they get a job? How many medical personnel were laid off? How many hospitals closed prior to us? Parkway, Mary Immaculate, St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s… The hospitals weren’t able to survive. For all the nurses laid off, how many other hospitals were left to absorb us: Elmhurst, North Shore Forest Hills, Mount Sinai Astoria, Jamaica, Flushing, New York Queens? And competition is stiff right now. Sampung nurses pupunta sa isang ospital/Ten nurses go to a hospital, and they only need two. I had a co-worker, she only had an associate’s degree for nursing. Not a bachelor’s. She got really sick, because of the stress from the hospital closing. She was 55 years old. Sabi nya/She said, “Who will hire a 55 year-old without at least a bachelor’s in nursing?” And then imagine if she did find work. Starting all over again is stressful too.

Poverty, limited job opportunities, and the Labor Export Policy in the Philippines push 3000 people out of the country in search for work abroad.  More than 50% of them are women.  In the United States, 13.5% of Filipino women are nurses and other health diagnosing and treating professionals.  Out of all Filipino women living and working in the local New York/New Jersey area, 30% of them are nurses and other health diagnosing and treating professionals.  Based on the 2000 Census, they are overrepresented in this occupation compared to the general population.  The hospital closings in New York in 2009 affect a significant population of Filipino nurses and their families locally, nationally, and in the Philippines.  Not only were jobs lost, but access to medical care was also severely cut in the working class, immigrant, and people of color neighborhood communities that faced hospital closings.  Among Filipino migrants, it is a wide belief that nursing is a viable occupational option for economic well-being. Its value is facing a shift during the economic crisis, however, when jobs, even in the United States, are becoming more and more scarce.