WOMEN activists used the International Women’s Day (IWD) today as a launch pad to flex their political muscle for candidates in the May 9 elections who would truly address the pressing concerns on job insecurity,climate change, violence against women as well as the LGBT, militarism in Mindanao and EDCA.
Hundreds of women members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro-Women) have called for that and other related demands during concerted IWD marches, pickets and other mass actions in Manila, Batangas, Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Marbel (Koronadal, South Cotabato).
In Manila, Sentro-Women joined the more than 20 mostly women organizations led by the World March of Women (WMW-Pilipinas) in a march from the LRT Doroteo Jose station to Mendiola, near Malacañang.
Prior tothat, at a prearranged time in the morning, several women activists took the women-only LRT lead train cars from Tayuman and Central stations. They handed roses and leaflets to the commuters that explain the IWD and the women’s current issues while serenading them the iconic “Bread and Roses”song.
The activists then urged the passengers to ask their respective local or national candidates to deal with the issues on contractual and low-paid work that torment many Filipinos, the disastrous and mainly human-induced climate change, the unabatedviolence and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, militarization and political killings in Mindanao, and the seemingly one-sided Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA between the US and the Philippines, which could cause more sexual assaults like the “Nicole” and Jennifer Laude cases and could also further inflame the brewing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
Getting off at the Doroteo Jose station, the women activists then met with their colleagues waiting for them and proceeded with their march to Mendiola, where they held a program and capped off with “I am a Woman” flash dance.
Meanwhile, Sentro-Women introduced the national candidates that they would support in the May polls, after scrutinizing their platforms and holding a series of dialogues with the political hopefuls as well as consultations with key leaders and members of the labor center.
They are Walden Bello and Risa Hontiveros, both senatorial aspirants; Leni Robredo for vice-president; and the Akbayan party-list.
Other national candidates may be added after undergoing the same exhaustive process of selection. Sentro chapters at the community or municipal, city and provincial levels have the discretion to pick their local bets but must satisfy first the general qualifications laid down by the national leadership.
“Bread and Roses” was first coined in a speech – “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too” – by Rose Schneiderman, an American trade unionist, socialist and feminist. It is an appeal for both just wages and working condition with dignity, and one of the most memorable phrases in the labor and women’s movement in that historic era in the early 1900s in the US.
It later inspired the poet and writer James Oppenheim to write the “Bread and Roses” poem. This poem is closely associated with the successful 10-week huge strike of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts from January to March 1912. It was first turned into a song in 1976 by activist singer-songwriter Mimi Baez Fariña.