The WSCF Inter-Regional Women’s Programme on “Violence Against Women: Challenging Gender Roles and Power Relations between Women and Men” was held from 24-31 July 2005 in Manila, Philippines. Twenty-three people participated in this inter-regional programme that saw a global representation from the 6 regions of WSCF.
The 23 participants went through an 8-day process of learning, sharing and experiencing together on the pertinent issue of Violence Against Women (VAW). The learning process started with a trust-building sharing of Her-Stories where participants shared their own background influences and impacts that became their lenses on the concerns and issues of society, especially on women and gender. A one-day visit to various NGOs that worked on issue of Violence Against Women was also planned. The participants visited GABRIELA Circle of Friend—a programme with women survivors of domestic violence, Lila Filipina-House of the Women Survivors who worked with women who were forced by the Japanese military as sex slaves during World War II. And also a dialogue exchange with the Ecumenical Women Vow for Civil Liberties, a sub-department of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
The resource persons of Malaysia and the Philippines, respectively Dr. Cecilia Ng, Judith Koh and Mother Mary John Mananzan provided a theoretical framework on the realities experienced by the participants as a guide to understand the issues of VAW. Dr. Cecilia Ng and Judith Koh started the critical analysis by looking at the gender-based social norms reflected in the various institutions in society (household, community, state and market) and analyse how (unequal) gender relations are played out in these arenas. They then further deepen these articulations by looking at the notion of intersectionalities and women’s multiple identities—that gender inequalities are further made complex by their interconnections with other forms of inequalities/discrimination such as class, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. Different feminist theories were examined to see how these apply to our own concrete situations and experiences, while taking a look at the historical perspective, on the struggles and issues of the women’s movement. Finally the 2 resource persons raised the issue of men’s involvement in ending violence; the processes of reward and punishment if one steps out of the box.
Mother Mary John Mananzan of the Philippines shared her experience and insights of Feminist Theology and how has the Church response to the issues of Violence Against Women. She discussed on the socio-historical context of women’s oppression, how women respond to this and the women’s movement and where is the church located in these important concerns. Mother Mary John also highlighted the need for feminist theology and women’s spirituality to be emphasized in our church teachings.
One of the important highlights in the programme was the Student Panel that opened the space for the student participants to present their country’s and regional realities of VAW. The preparations of the presentations challenged the meaning of teamwork in the SCM Spirit and the actual presentations provided many new insights and understanding on the VAW issues of each country.
A book on this Inter-Regional Women’s Programme will be published so that all SCMs in WSCF will benefit from this project that is the first in the Federation after a lapse of many years. For more details, please log onto the WSCF website at www.wscfglobal.org.