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

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.

Members of SiGAw - GAB USA mobilize to oppose anti-immigrant legislation, May 1, 2010

The Exploitation of Migrant Filipinas and the Struggle for Justice

The Exploitation of Migrant Filipinas and the Struggle for Justice
Day 12 of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Contact: Terrie Cervas
Vice Chair of Finance – GABRIELA USA
Coordinator for Mass Campaigns – Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken! (SiGAw!)
(213) 537-8278
sigaw.la@gmail.com

Members of SiGAw - GAB USA mobilize to oppose anti-immigrant legislation, May 1, 2010

Members of SiGAw - GAB USA mobilize to oppose anti-immigrant legislation, May 1, 2010

Imagine 2,500 Filipinos leaving the Philippines every day. A country with a population of 92 million, the Philippines has become the largest exporter of labor in the world. The United States is home to the largest group of Filipinos outside of the Philippines with four million Filipinos residing here, of which 24% are undocumented (source “Ating Kalagayan: The Social and Economic Profile of U.S. Filipinos”).

How do we explain this massive migration? The answer lies in the socio-economic conditions of the Philippines. In a country where no genuine land reform exists to allow for the peasants to survive on the land they grew up on, they leave in droves to search for employment in the cities. However, because of government policies that do not build and develop national industries, the economy can’t generate the jobs necessary to employ the thousands who graduated with college and university degrees in various fields including medicine, engineering, and teaching. Hence, they are forced to migrate abroad in search of employment.

Dependent on multi-national corporations for imports of pricey finished goods in exchange for its cheap raw materials, the trade imbalance and payment deficits keep growing. The intervention of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) adds to the country’s looming debt and financial difficulties. The Marcos dictatorship created the Labor Export Program (LEP) under the guise of easing the unemployment problem, fixing the debt and trade deficits. However, until now, the LEP is just another scheme to perpetuate an unjust social system that uses Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) for their remittances, which keep the country from complete collapse. Keeping its people out of the country helps prevent social unrest from developing from within.

After being hit with a load of expensive fees from employment agencies and high interest loans while in the Philippines, OFWs are shipped out to other countries where they are vulnerable to greater abuse and exploitation due to inadequate laws favoring their employers over their basic human rights. Acts of violence in the forms of murder and rape are commonly committed against women compatriots.

Alliances such as GABRIELA USA were formed to arouse, organize, and mobilize overseas compatriots to fight for their rights and welfare and to participate in the movement for social change in the Philippines. We hold the banner of the national democratic movement in the Philippines high for all Filipinos across the globe. On the twelfth day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
GABRIELA USA honors all migrant working women by highlighting excerpts of interviews of undocumented Filipinas in their everyday struggles. Names have been changed to protect their identities and privacy.

Interview of Nanay Beng

When I came here it was just plain. It was just my clothes. I wasn’t sure even when I come here if I would be with my husband because he was playing with someone. I asked him if he still wanted me. I think I was only carrying USD$150. That was from my two brothers. When I reached immigration, they didn’t even ask me. I came on a business B1B2 visa.

My plan was to look for greener pastures and follow my husband. We found the jobs but we’re not happy, we’re starting to file the petition with the father and then he passed away. Visa expired after 5 yrs. When my husband died and employer died, the immigration office wanted $250 to file and the sponsorship from employer. The lawyer said I could still file but I told him the employer died. It’s hard because they won’t accept you if you say you don’t have green card. They have to ask you, “are you a citizen, do you have a green card?” If they’re going to hire you illegally they’re going to fine you. It’s not acceptable to the employer. It’s really hard. That’s why Filipinos become caregivers if they don’t have papers because they don’t ask for papers.

When my mom died, I couldn’t go to the Philippines because when my husband died, I used all my money to take care of my husband’s funeral. I cried a lot and it was painful and hurting. I left behind two sons. Other family always takes care of them. Whatever I have–$20–I put money to them. I didn’t see them for 17 years. When I left the Philippines [in] 1992 the second was 5 years old. Now eldest has a child now.

Very sad about this life. I’m tired of working like this. I’m also with the agencies, but I pick the employer that pays me. Agencies pay in 2-3 weeks, depends on the case of the patient. Some agencies pay the caregivers. So every time I have my work I get money.

My responsibility is work, cook, take care of my kids, go to doctor’s appointment. Sometimes I can’t do all anymore. It’s so tiring. It’s kind of hard; the responsibility of a single mother is hard. I work hard. Sunday up to five up to Wed to five. I was given a full-time job but I gave up 2 days because children are still in school. Three days isn’t really good but I’m trying my best to adjust to this kind of life.

Financially it’s not enough. When you have a family and you’re raising children and somebody in school, you have to figure out what their needs are in school. Mostly low-income people earn $2000, [which] is really ok. But now, with three days I’m only earning $1200-1500. I came here with my papers. This is my passport. I show them all. Then it gets approved. We’re safe with the food but sometimes we’re tight because if I get $1500 the food stamp gets low. My cable was cut off.

The rental here is $800. I spoke to the owner and sometimes I pay him half and he’s ok. He doesn’t say nothing. But it’s not yet enough. I have a problem with my teeth. Health care givers don’t have insurance. Other caregivers go to free clinic.

For now it makes me worried. But what can I do? I don’t know what to do. I just keep it going, whatever is there and keep working. It’s really hard to find a job. You can’t find a job.

I want to help other women. But help me first.

 

Interview of Nanay Rosie

I think husbands who lost their jobs and cannot provide any–it’s very devastating to them, being a man. So he looked for job everywhere here. At that time we had a problem with the economy here in California. So his cousin invited him in Chicago to have a business because he used to be a businessman. And so he went there, until he comes here every 3 months, 4 months later, every 6 months. Until he finally settled his job there with his business, until…Maybe he also found a woman, I don’t know. But uh, it’s my son who really made me strong to stand on my own two feet. Because I don’t have anybody to turn to, financially. You know, I had money from the Middle East, but we used it for business. It didn’t materialize. Our partner just left us. So we lost everything, everything–motel, apartments. We lost everything. We cannot sell because it’s not in the corporation.

I wanna go back home. My number one problem was, “When will I see them again?” My family–sisters, brothers, my mom, who was sick at that time. So I cried mostly everyday.

Oh my god. My chest was so heavy. Because first thing, when you didn’t have the paper and somebody is roaming around here like the police. I don’t go out. We moved from one place to another. When the police would come to you, I get nervous. All those [are] the effect of illegal stay here. But when I got it, as if the knife get out from my chest and you know, I was so happy. I don’t know, I spent so much. The lawyer let me pay like $12,000– one half first and then every month.

My first memories of violence…When I first started at work as a nurse, I still had a problem with pronouncing the words right. And when I’m talking to the doctor they will say, “Are you Korean? Filipino? I don’t understand you.” And then they will do like that, they will bagsak the telephone. They will just hang on me. And then I had to call because I have to get an order. And then she said, “Is there any RN I can speak with, with better pronunciation? I don’t really understand you.” And then I cry. I go to the bathroom and cry.

And then my second day of working was that, there was a guy who was encircling me. Because our apartment is just near the hospital and so you just cross the street. I didn’t know. Because what I really know about America, is it’s like gold. Nobody will snatch you or snatch your bag or hold up you and everything. But I have so many, like 10 experiences [of getting mugged]. The other one was two guys were trying to get me. I was still young those times. I was 38 to 39. My son was months old and my husband is supposed to come and pick me up, even though it’s just across. And then here comes two guys, trying to get me into their car. And what I did, when I had a chance to run, to go back to my work, I did it. And early in the morning I go visit someone. Somebody poked a gun here [points to her temple].

Nanay Beng and Nanay Rosie’s stories reflect the hardships and exploitative conditions that migrant OFWs face everyday. We must continue to oppose the anti-migrant and worker policies created by imperialist countries. GABRIELA USA recently joined the 3rd International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (iamr3.wordpress.com) to oppose the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which attempts to force labor export policies on other countries around the globe. Migrants continue to be exploited by such policies, thus we must unite with our sisters and brothers for justice!

Legalization for All!!
Swift Reunification of Families Now!!
End Labor Export Policies! Oppose the GFMD!!
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Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw) is an organization serving Filipinas in the Los Angeles community. We strive to build a strong Filipina women’s mass movement, recognizing that the problems of the Filipina diaspora are linked to the root problems of the Philippines. SiGAw addresses the rights and welfare of women through education, organizing, campaigns, and cultural work.

SiGAw is a member organization of GABRIELA-USA, an overseas chapter of GABRIELA (General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action). GABRIELA is the largest and most mlitant women’s alliance that is working for genuine democracy and freedom in the Philippines.

SiGAw is an LGBTIQ-(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer/Questioning) friendly organization that is inclusive of gender-non comforming people of Philippine descent.

SiGAw is also a member organization of BAYAN-USA.