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No. 1, 2002
The artwork in cover is
jointly designed by
Christina Lin
of SCM Taiwan
and the editorial team
Editorial Team:
Rev. Shin Seung Min
Ms. Necta Montes
Ms. Wong Yick Ching

Praxis

Issue No. 1, January–April 2002

 

Contents:

 

Editorial  •  Perspective  •  Women and Men Space  •  Solidarity

Editorial:

Women and Men in Partnership

WSCF AP has been engaging in the process of women’s struggles for a long time. The Regional Women’s Programme was initiated to address the many issues faced by women that prompted many young women SCMers to grow steadily in their understanding of the patriarchal system and ideology that surround them, affecting their everyday life. While such understanding develops gender consciousness and justice for women, it also develops the sense of a need to go into a dialogue with men to address the patriarchal system and ideology. It will be a work of partnership between women and men as it was realized that it would be difficult for women to achieve a total sense of liberation from patriarchy if the men play no part or make no effort in addressing the oppressive forces that envelop both women and men. But, what is “Partnership” and how should we define it? Partnership could be defined as a joint effort by two or more parties to achieve a common goal and objective. And in this case, the common goal and objective is the elimination of the Patriarchal System and Ideology. However, to develop a genuine form of joint effort between women and men, it needs honesty, sincerity and the humble understanding and confession that we are all participants of the patriarchal system and ideology, and that we are the oppressors and reinforcers ourselves.

This issue of Praxis traces the previous developments of women and men in partnership of WSCF AP and outlines the struggles that accompany them. It also gives a refresher on the current momentum of this issue with various reflections on women and men in partnership by our Regional Women’s Committee members as well as the participants of the programme, “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey”.

At the end of the day, for the joint effort of women and men to work towards eliminating the patriarchal system and ideology, all of us need a firm and loud ‘YES’ from both women and men. We will then be on our way to attaining an encompassing and inclusive Christianity where there will be no barriers to freedom, peace, equality and humanity to be enjoyed by both women and men.

On behalf of WSCF AP, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many women and men of the Federation who have actively involved themselves in the process of laying the foundation for dialogues on women and men in partnership. This foundation has and will become the bridge to the future. These people range from previous regional staff, committee members, individuals and participants to programmes on women and men in partnership, to the present ones. A warm “thank you” to you all.

Wong Yock Leng
Regional Women’s Coordinator

 

Editorial  •  Perspective  •  Women and Men Space  •  Solidarity

Perspective:

Women & Men in Partnership

by Wong Yock Leng

Introduction

In 1984, WSCF AP’s Regional Women’s Committee (RWC) was formed and this led to the subsequent creation of the Regional Women’s Programme (RWP) in 1985. The framework that helped to develop the RWC and RWP was based on the real experiences of the many women in Asia and the Pacific who faced and lived the multiple oppressions that patriarchy, as a system and an ideology, imposes on them. As a system, these multiple forms of oppression and discrimination appear in all shapes and shades in the homes, culture, society, economics, politics, and even religion. As an ideology, patriarchy constructs a cruel socialization within a woman—that she in every inch, an inferior being in varied conditioned systems of gender, class, caste, race, and knowledge.

Through the years of journey, the RWP’s focus on critiquing the oppressions of patriarchy and the strengthening and building up the leadership and participation of women in all levels were met with enthusiasm. However, as the RWP journeyed along in its experience, the need to contemplate on the issue of Women and Men in Partnership was found to be of relevance in addressing the importance of women’s liberation from the claws of patriarchy. Patriarchy does not only inhibit women, it also cruelly inhibits men. As much as it constructs a socialization within women, it also constructs a socialization within men. Patriarchy deters humankind from seeking total freedom from the many oppressions that de-value love, compassion, kindness, equality and responsibility. Hence, the liberation of women has to go hand in hand with the liberation of men, and vice-versa. To start the process of this liberation, one of the works includes the un-conditioning of women and men in their patriarchal socialization and to create an awareness of gender discrimination, injustices, and oppressions. The next step would be a joint effort between the women and men then, working together to stop the oppressive forces. In the context of SCM and WSCF, the vision has been to realize and understand the importance of a living theology—that of women and men both created as equal partners, working towards realizing God’s reign on earth.

The process of women and men in partnership was initiated as early as 1990. Some works were developed and laid down as a foundation, but it never got on to become a more permanent feature in WSCF as well as in the AP region. There are perhaps many factors that contributed to this transience: change in leadership, shift in concerns, lack of support from the movements, or the un-readiness to commit to this process. But for many of those who are involved in women’s issues and the elimination of patriarchy, this issue of women and men in partnership will inevitably be brought up again and again.

Why are we raising this issue of women and men in partnership again at this time? The process of women and men in partnership differs in each generation of SCMers, bringing a different voice, response and approach. The concern was again brought up and concretized in the regional women’s programme: “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey” held in Hong Kong, 2001. In this programme, there were 13 participants of whom 6 were men. This number of male participants in a regional women’s programme was a significant breakthrough and these 6 men came with a sense of humility, openness, and a sincere heart to learn. Is this an indication that the groundwork that has been laid to such that movements now have the readiness and openness to seriously think about the issue of women and men in partnership? The present RWC members have made an indication in the recent RWC Meeting that this issue would be reviewed in the next biennial, but there are still many mixed feelings.

This short article thus aims to reflect on the history of WSCF AP’s journey in building up the process of women and men in partnership, and honestly share the general feelings and apprehension of many women SCMers on this issue. It hopes to find a way that would ensure a sense of trust between our women and men SCMers and how we could work together in raising the consciousness of women and men in partnership in the Federation.

How the Little Mustard Seed was Sowed

The discussion of women and men in partnership was initiated in the early years of WSCF and RWP. In the 1990, the WSCF Journal published by the Inter-Regional Office (IRO), shared on a vision of realizing the consciousness of a women and men in partnership in the Federation. In its editorial, it said:

“It has been acknowledged time and again that an important task of the feminist movement is the remolding into one that treats both sexes as equal. This is not an easy task for women in the WSCF but one that we should never give up. The dialogue on Women-Men partnership is a step toward this direction but this dialogue should be a continuous one and not on that takes place only during formal meetings or assemblies. Nor must it remain a dialogue. This dialogue must give birth to a new consciousness—a “counter-consciousness”—as a prominent Filipino historian puts it. Partnership, if it is to be a reality, must become a way of life, challenging our basic values, an openness to new meanings and perspectives. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing women and men in the Federation and it is a challenge that we cannot afford to evade if we believe that we are all co-builders of God’s reign on earth”.[1]

Since the development of the RWP, Women Caucuses were a familiar sight in almost all regional meetings and programmes of WSCF AP. The caucuses provided an opportunity for the women to raise and discuss their concerns on women’s issues. In the 1989 Regional Committee Meeting (RCM), a Men’s Caucus was developed and as the male delegates met to share their experience as men in the society, their role and attitudes towards women. In their response to Partnership, they suggested that they should work on the following:

  1. Self-criticism (confession)
  2. Repentance
  3. Re-education
    • ourselves and other men
    • look to find new creative ways of being
  4. sharing of responsibility and power
    • need concrete and specific actions that will give power to women and help them to share responsibilities with men

In this caucus’ Recommendations, some of the points raised were:

  1. In repentance we (the male delegates) commit ourselves to a process of self-criticism and challenge other men in our national movements, in our region and in the Federation with regard to these issues. We see the need to support each other in the process and regularly evaluate our progress on these issues
  2. We recommend that the executive committees of National Movements carefully study the recommendations in the Workshop Reports and put the suggested strategy into practice
  3. Finally we recommend to all men in the national movements the process that we have undertaken in these two caucuses. That is the reflection, analysis and self-criticism based on the issues raised in the reports and repentance through concrete acts to bring about equal partnership between men and women.[2]

In 1992, the theme for the Student Empowerment for Transformation (SET) was “A New Partnership Towards A New Humanity and Creation”. It was a one-month workshop involving 29 participants with 1 female and 1 male delegate from each movement. This was the first regional programme that marked the topics of women and men partnership and the oppressions of patriarchy experienced by both women and men, for discussion and reflection in the SCMs. The rationale of this programme was to provide a ‘forum for men to grapple with their own attitudes, values, actions and beliefs that are oppressive to women and discuss how they can forge solidarity with women in their struggle for liberation. This is based on the conviction that men are part of the oppressive system and at the same time victimized by it. Men’s liberation is therefore integral to the liberation of women and vice-versa’.[3]

In 1993, just before the joint consultation with the Asian Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) and Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) on the theme, “Community of Women and Men”, the RCM held in Hong Kong developed the guidelines for Male Caucus and Male Facilitators to help facilitate the caucuses in future regional programmes. The important points raised in the guidelines were:

  1. to analyze the existence of patriarchy in the structures of society, national movements, WSCF and churches (seminaries, theological colleges) and how it is oppressive to men and women and creation as a whole and how it places men in the position of power;
  2. to link our Christian call to serve justice with a need to eliminate sexism and to enable women and men themselves to establish humanizing relations based on mutuality, respect and acceptance of diversity/inter-connectedness;
  3. to support women and men in their struggle for liberation and justice;
  4. to challenge men and women within and outside the movements to confront and remove their own sexism;
  5. to add and support men in discovering male identity based on wholeness, compassion and community;
  6. to address the problems of violence and homophobia in a patriarchal society;
  7. to explore male sexuality, homosexuality and spirituality;
  8. to begin to understand women sexuality and gain a mutual understanding of relationships between women and men. (some comments from the women who felt that a better word for ‘women sexuality’ will be ‘human sexuality’ as the former sounds rather clinical)[4]

Although this guideline was developed, it was difficult to find male resource persons who could serve as facilitators for the men caucuses. It was realized that there were a very limited number of men who were gender conscious and sensitive to women’s issues and struggles as well as of the oppressions of patriarchy.

In the same year, the joint consultation was organized with the main underlying principle to bring “together women and men from many countries in Asia to address issues of equal sharing of power and authority in the home, the church and society”.[5]

Some of the male delegates in the 1995 RCM volunteered to be contacts for a possible sub-regional level men’s programme, and appointed one sub-region each to come under their care. A regional workshop was even thought of with focuses such as “how men feel about being men”, “how patriarchy affects society and humanity” and “redefining relationships”.[6] However this workshop or sub-regional contacts never materialized as the internal coordination of these male volunteers was weak and most of them became very busy with their own work back home. Soon, the urgency for further developments, waned.

Throughout the years, the past and present RWC and Regional Women’s Coordinators reiterated similar points on the need to review the process of women and men in partnership. In the 1990 RWC Meeting, it was pointed out that there is a need to “search for and redefine the meaning of men and women partnership for total human liberation”.[7] In RWC Meeting 2000, the previous Regional Women’s Coordinator raised the concern that “programmes should give more focus between men and women, or partnership...”.[8] In RCM 2001, the present Regional Women’s Coordinator recommended that there is a need to “envision for a gender sensitive society not only for women but also for men as well. This calls for a real and true sense of being in partnership where there is honest and sincere understanding and acceptance of women and men’s issues in the context of SCM/WSCF and in the spirituality of an inclusive Christianity”.[9]

This issue of women and men in partnership was first raised more than a decade ago and throughout these years, though many related works was constantly thought of, developed, done and documented, the consistency of following up with this issue with more emphasis and more frequency was difficult to sustain. However difficult the momentum was, all these works that were previously developed and done serve as a building-up ground and laid the foundation for this process to continue into the future. This was seen in the programme, “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey” in 2001.

The idea of having a programme for women and men was initiated by the previous RWC members (1999-2001), and the workshop, “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey” was developed and was finally held in Hong Kong, November 2001. As mentioned earlier, the success of this programme prompted mixed feelings on the need to emphasize on programmes with the concept of partnership. And given all the groundwork that was laid, there is still a certain amount of apprehension and anguish, especially from the women in SCMs. What are some of these apprehensions and mixed feelings that many women have?

Apprehension and Anguish over the Misuse of “Partnership”

In the programme “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey”, one of the male participants aptly puts it: “Many men, including myself, do not really understand about the patriarchal system. It is only being understood in the intellectual level...... I will never forget that I am not free from the patriarchal system....”.[10] Not many men really understand what patriarchy is and are unaware of the presence of it in our daily lives as well as the effects of gender discrimination because most of them do not see a problem in patriarchy. As long as men do not understand the true oppressive forces of patriarchy and how they have also been socialized and conditioned by these forces to unwittingly become accomplices of the patriarchal system, there will not be constructive dialogues on the issue of women and men partnership. Moreover it does not help when most only have an intellectual overview of the patriarchal system. An intellectual overview only imprints in the mind, but it does not imprint in the heart and in the daily practices, that are far more demonstrative of one’s understanding. There would be doubts on the sincerity of a dialogue if one rhetorically and cleverly talks about patriarchy when one does not perceive that the need to review the structures of one’s home, church, work place, SCM etc., nor when one pays attention to gender-insensitive languages (especially in liturgies). Lip-service cannot reflect on one’s conviction in a certain value.

Having said this, it is just fair to say that many women too, do not understand the ideology of patriarchy and how it has conditioned women to perceive, feel, think, and behave in a lesser capacity. Many women too, project the image of “man in front, woman behind” and reinforce the practices of patriarchy. I could still see many SCM women are still not sensitive enough to use inclusive languages in liturgies or worships because it has become a natural habit to follow precedence. In this sense, there would be a very limited space for those who try to make some sense on women and men partnership when even women do not fully fathom the oppressions that oppress them.

Another of the apprehensions that most women have is the misuse and abuse of the concept of “partnership” by many men. Programmes or activities conducted with the concept of partnership could be used as a tool to downplay the importance of having programmes for women only. It is feared that the call for “partnership” would inevitably engineered a reduction of women’s programmes on the pretext of a re-emphasis or a support on women and men partnership. Perhaps there will be many questions on why should we conduct programmes for women only when we are calling for “partnership”? As another student so aptly puts it, “it is women who have borne the brunt of the oppression. Thus women must have their own space to be able to communicate their relations with this”.[11] It is important to recognize that the brunt of the oppression that women bear has shaken them off their confidence, their self-believe, their leadership potential, their voices and their perception powers. Women therefore need the empowerment to regain their strengths so as to realize they too possess the voice, the leadership qualities, the confidence and the critiquing powers in the environment of humankind. If these are overlooked as men or women challenge women to go directly instead into the concept of partnership, a sense of distrust will soon develop amongst the women who are seeking a dialogue on equal terms and with sincerity.

Moreover, it could be seen as mere lip-service if men were invited to attend programmes or dialogues on “partnership” just to create the desired number of male participants. There is always the fear of a backlash if the issue and the process of women and men partnership are not thoroughly comprehended, and the groundwork is not strongly laid.

Therefore, as women go through the process of re-conscientisation on the socialization of the patriarchal system and ideology, many felt that men need this re-conscientisation as well. Although there are many men in the SCM/WSCF who are gender aware and conscious of the effects of patriarchy, there is still a great number of men in SCM/WSCF who are not. Without this re-conscientisation, there will never be sincere acknowledgment or real efforts put in the work towards partnership.

These are some of the apprehensions and anguish of many people who see the potential for use and abuse of the concept of women and men partnership. But do we want to continue indulge in these apprehensions or do we want to find out what is the true meaning of partnership so that we could go beyond the fears of misuse and abuse to help ourselves become a more complete human being?

Reflection on the True Meaning of Partnership

As an SCMer, the very challenging question for us is: why are we in SCM? Our vision and mission lay in a holistic Christian faith that strives for love, peace, freedom, equality and humanity. We question the abuses of human rights that oppress the peace and freedom of humankind and challenge the mindsets, structures and traditions that burden the quest for equality and humanity. We share the vision for a new Church, a new alternative as opposed to the institutionalized church where hierarchy and politics of power pre-dominate the proclamation and praxis of the Gospel.[12] We embrace the concept of a living Jesus Christ that gives us the meaning of New Humanity on earth where there is true peace, freedom, dignity and equality amongst all created beings of God. Therefore, would there not be something amiss in our vision and mission if we do not question the patriarchal system and ideology that deter us from working towards a destination where women and men walk can side by side as equal partners?

The spirituality of Jesus Christ teaches us that both women and men are created in the image of God, not that one is considered an inferior creation than the other. Both women and men share the similar responsibility to overturn all oppressive structures, including the patriarchy system and ideology that hinder the full potential of humanity to be realized.

The life of SCM seeks a holistic and an all encompassing Christian faith that each of us, women and men are called to work in joint efforts in building a movement of humanity and compassion. This will not materialize if no attention is paid to the struggles and oppressive forces experienced by and affecting both women and men. Equal partnership would also be but rhetorical if no efforts are made to conscientise both women and men to the social conditionings have made them accomplices of these oppressive forces. Real partnership of women and men inculcates true understanding of the oppressive forces of the patriarchal system and ideology, and encourages sincere efforts from both sides to re-evaluate the very system and ideology that otherwise hinders humankind’s desire for peace, freedom, dignity and equality. Our SCM vision and mission is to make this true partnership of women and men, a reality in our daily lives and in our daily journey with God.

An Appeal to All SCMs

It will be a challenge to all SCMs and SCMers to review once again the oppressive forces of patriarchy, to initiate an evaluation on how far we all have gone in the process of understanding the patriarchal system and ideology as well as how they have affected both women and men in our own SCM. We appeal to all SCMers to seek for a true, sincere and genuine dialogue on women and men in partnership.

Conclusion

Jesus Christ represents the New Humanity and the New Creation[13] of Christians who would break away from the shackles of violence, inequality, imprisonment, sorrow and pain. Let us all, women and men, work in solidarity and in genuine sincerity to break the shackles of the patriarchal system and ideology, towards a true form of women and men in partnership in our journey towards God’s reign on earth.

 

Some References that are helpful for both women and men
  1. Chant Sylvia & Gutmann, Matthew C. (2000), Oxfam Working Paper; “Mainstreaming Men Into Gender Development: Debates, Reflections and Experience” www.oxfam.org.uk/publish/resourcat.htm
  2. Greig, Alan; Kimmel, Michael & Lang, James (2000), “Men, Masculinities and Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality”. UNDP/GIDP – www.undp.org/gender/programmes/men/menge.html
  3. UNIFEM, Gender Issues, Fact Sheet No.5, “Masculinity and Gender Violence”. www.unifem-eseasia.org/Gendiss/Gendiss5.htm
Notes
  1. Clarissa Balan, “More Than A Change In Structures”, WSCF Journal, September 1990
  2. Minutes of the Regional Committee Meeting, Appendix E. January 1989
  3. Regional Women’s Committee Minutes, January 1992
  4. Minutes of the Regional Committee Meeting, Appendix G. June 26 - July 9 1993
  5. Proceedings of The Joint Consultation of AWRC, CCA and WSCF AP, November 1993
  6. Minutes of the Regional Committee Meeting, pg. 23. August 1995
  7. Minutes of the Regional Women’s Committee, pg.8. February 1990
  8. Minutes of the Regional Women’s Committee, pg.22. February 2000
  9. Minutes for Regional Committee Meeting, pg.57. July 2001
  10. Report by Bang-Joo Do Im for programme, “From Gender Sensitivity to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey”, November 2001
  11. Report by Annabel Dulhunty for “From Gender Sensibility to Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey”
  12. Yong Ting Jin. Insights on Men-Women Partnership and Solidarity in the Federation, WSCF Journal, 1990
  13. Terms are quoted and taken from Ms Yong Ting Jin

 

Editorial  •  Perspective  •  Women and Men Space  •  Solidarity

Women and Men Space:

Our RWC Members Speak......

Partnership

by Kaythi Min Din
SCM Myanmar

In Asian countries, including Myanmar, the patriarchy system has been firmly rooted in the society which causes various kinds of unnecessary things such as gender discrimination, oppressions, domestic violence and conflicts between women and men. In Myanmar, gender discrimination is not very prominent but it is still going on. But in some cases which is very serious, for example: women ordination. All the gender discrimination in Myanmar is derived from oral traditions and man-made cultures, but not from real essence of Religions.

There is no doubt that gender discriminations cause exploitation upon women’s dignity and opportunities, and injustice. The consequence of injustice is violence that could appear in many forms. If we want to build a new peace and just society on earth, firstly we have to eliminate Gender Discrimination and give new meaning to “Partnership”.

As for me, Partnership means, women and men work together with hand in hand for the people. By means of Partnership, we can promote mutual respects, mutual understandings and reciprocal obligations between women and men. We should not forget that our Partnership is not only with women and men but also with God. Women are co-workers of men’s projects, men are co-workers of women’s projects, and all human being are co-workers of God’s creation.

The real essence of Partnership is equal share of resources, power, knowledge and opportunity, and working together with solidarity spirit to fulfill the will of God on earth.

Partnership

by Lasma Tobing
SCM Indonesia

During the RWC in Jakarta, 12-13 January 2002, one of the issues and concerns we raised for this year was “partnership between women and men”. But how could WSCF AP help build up the concept of “Partnership” between women and men, and inculcate working together as genuine partners involved in WSCF AP’s programmes? We have talked much about it and conduct programmes of such nature, but in real life, we do not practice it and did not pay much attention on making this issue more urgent and visible. Hence, we hope that through dialogues, discussions or sharing, the concept of “partnership between women and men” could be initiated.

Here, I would just like to share my understanding on the concept of “partnership between women and men”. To me, this concept means a relationship between women and men and they are equal partners and co-workers to achieve a goal. They would have equal participation in matters in a community, family and work place etc. There should be mutual agreement to share responsibilities for the welfare and development of ourselves, our society and family. A partnership begins when each partner could contribute according to hers/his competence and capabilities so that there is equality without the undesired attitude of one being more superior than the other. Instead it should be working together with love and peace. Love and peace are bases of a good relationship amongst people. There is also the mutual interdependence of each other and to accept that each one of us is a part of the whole.

I hope we could start with the first step and taking one step at a time and that we could make it work in WSCF AP.

Partnership: More Questions than Answers

by Sophia Wooldridge
Australia SCM

I’ve been putting off writing this article for some time, because even as I write it I don’t really understand the topic. For some time I have been asking people in WSCF AP to define ‘partnership’ for me, and to tell me a little of the history of the concept. I’m hoping that this edition of Praxis will contain articles that answer some of my queries. My first impulse in preparing for this article was to retreat to the library, and trowel through the books to find some mention of ‘partnership’ in the theology or the religious studies section. I tried to do this, but I met with 2 obstacles. Firstly, I couldn’t find any readings on ‘partnership’ in relation to men and women. Secondly, I find that the language used in theological discourse is difficult to grapple with, and I lacked the motivation to break the code. (How accessible is feminist discourse? How does it reflect on feminist ethics to write in such a way that the text is difficult for many women to understand? What good is feminist debate if it works as another avenue where some women are excluded and disempowered?)

If I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t turning to the books to learn. I was looking for texts to voice my views for me, and to wrap my opinions up in jargon so that my writing might be taken more seriously. But no! It’s time to practice what I preach! I’ve therefore written this article as an expression of my concerns and my questions, because questions and concerns are almost all I have in relation to the term ‘partnership’.

What are the base assumptions?

There seems to me to be several assumptions people might have when they want to move towards a partnership model. What follows are three possible reasons for moving towards partnership, and my arguments against each assumption:

  1. Most of the hard work has been done: Many national WSCF groups now have bylaws stipulating that there must women in leadership positions. Also, the women’s project in WSCF has now been active for over 20 years. Some people might assume that after so much hard work the AP of WSCF has now addressed and rectified most gender inequalities. However, inequality between genders still exists. And really how could this not be? In the WSCF AP region, the work that’s been done on gender issues has at times been nothing short of revolutionary, and we should be proud of our organisation’s work to address gender issues. However, being a university student organisation, we have a high turnover of members so there is constantly WSCF AP members who are new to the concepts of gender equality and feminism. Also, we do not exist in a vacuum. The societies, cultures, and market forces around us do not share our commitment to gender equality, so of course there is always more work to be done. The struggle continues. Let’s all be absolutely clear from the outset that women continue to be oppressed and disadvantaged by a patriarchal system on many levels, throughout our region, and indeed throughout the world.
  2. Women need men’s help to end the oppression of women: Some people might believe that after decades of struggle, women must now admit that we cannot advance the cause of women without the help of men, and that our aim of “sisters are doing it for themselves” has not worked. I disagree with this. Women’s movements have made slow but steady progress for over 100 years. It’s dangerous for women to adopt a position where they are relying on men to enable their freedom from oppression. While dialogue is important in ending oppression, it is never a good idea for the oppressed to rely on the oppressors to create change. How could this process be made safe for women? Perhaps there have been examples of women and men working together in such a way, but I have not read about them.
  3. Partnership work will motivate men to address their own issues: It seems to me that for several years now, women in AP WSCF have been hoping for men in the movements to take initiatives to form their own response to issues of gender. This might take the form of a regional men’s project, or some other action. There would have several advantages of this for women in the AP WSCF. Firstly, it would give us a group to be in dialogue with about issues of gender. Secondly, women would learn more about how patriarchy effects men by hearing from men’s experience. Thirdly, the views of women will be challenged and debated in a respectful way (no organisation should be beyond questioning). Fourthly, men could offer new perspectives and strategies for addressing gender-related problems, strategies that women’s groups may not have considered before. However, if our aim in working in a partnership model is to get men to debate gender issues amongst themselves, then we should be honest about that. If we are working together primarily in order to get men working, then that is even more reason for women to be mindful of how much time and energy they spend on this interaction.

What is goal or aim of partnership?

I am also not clear on what our motives would be for engaging in partnership work.

Means to an end, or ethical process? If we engage in a partnership process, do we do so to achieve a specific ends, such as equal power and justice for men and women, or do we commit to partnership because it is a biblical imperative for men and women to work together regardless of whether our process reinforces the systemic repression of women?

What are we aiming for? If we engage in partnership work, what is the aim of that work? Do men and women work together to determine the aim of the work? I would assume they would, or else men would be working to achieve women’s objectives, and that seems to me to be more an outsourcing strategy rather than partnership. Do men and women begin the process having already formulated separate agendas before meeting together? (In our favour, many people in WSCF AP have experience in sitting down with people with radically different life experiences, and constructing a useful action plan.)

Can partnership be made safe for women?

I can see several specific areas of risk to women if AP adopts partnership strategies.

It’s still not an even playing field: Many women in the AP still need encouragement and skills development to speak up in groups composed of men and women. Women continue to be less likely to use the power available to them. This will effect how partnership work is done at all levels. Should all women involved in such work be offered training in skills for empowerment? What about male participants who also lack experience in meeting processes? Should they be offered training as well?

Who sets the agenda? As discussed above, even setting an agenda for partnership work together would involve men and women working together. How could this process be made gender fair?

Who will do the work, and who will gain from the work? As we all know, the women’s project in WSCF AP has been functioning for several decades, and in that time much knowledge has been accrued by AP office, and by national movements. There is a danger that if partnership strategies are embraced more widely in the AP women will find themselves responsible for educating men about gender issues, and also teaching them how to build considerations of gender into their action. But we have enough work to do in empowering women! Our personal and organisational resources are too limited to take on this role for men as well. To what extent would women be prepared to slow down in order to let men catch up to them? If men take it upon themselves to educate other men about gender issues (as I know has happened in many WSCF AP groups), they will develop new ways of ‘doing gender work’, with new insights and processes to contribute. But the impetus for this work should not lie with women. We as women need to be wary of our own urges to rescue men, when they are perfectly capable of doing this work themselves. What will the expectations of men be in this regard?

What happens to the Women’s Projects? There is still work to be done within our region. I am concerned that if partnership work becomes the main focus of the women’s project, pressure will be brought to bear on us to divert funding from the women’s desk to a ‘partnership desk’ and women’s issues will become lost. Is it possible for some guarantee to be given that this will not happen?

How will our work in partnership effect women in other WSCF regions? I think it’s fair to say that the WSCF AP has to a certain extent been at the forefront of WSCF work in gender. Other WSCF regions look to the AP and our work on gender, and we do have influence in this area. This may sound farfetched or arrogant, but I am concerned that if we adopt partnership strategies and partnership language, it might give legitimacy to national movements or even other regional offices who do not want to make changes to their organisation to move towards equality to women. Of course we can’t control what others do with any of the initiatives we take, but if we do move towards partnership, how can we best consult with women from other regions about how this may affect them?

My opinion

In 1996, a male ASCM member, Chris Albone, said he believed that for a men’s movement to have any worth, it is imperative that it is not merely a cheer squad for the women’s movement. Men must have their own agenda, and take action on it, rather than waiting for women to educate them about issues of gender and direct them as to what to do next. I very much agree with this view. I believe we do need the unique insights of men into this process to move forward towards gender equality. However, I am concerned that embarking on partnership strategies at this point might result in women spending time and energy on work which is not really theirs to do, and which men are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Another issue we need to consider is the very definition of gender, and how appropriate our definitions/constructions/definitions of gender are.

As you may have already gathered, I am not comfortable with the notion of partnership. I hope that some of my concerns might be addressed by other articles in this Praxis, and that by the time you finish this Praxis most of the questions I’ve listed here have been solidly answered by others. For me to feel comfortable with partnership, I would firstly need to be given a definition of partnership, as well as an aim, and some information about how the process of women and men working together will be made equitable and effective. Women’s issues are not passé, nor is the notion of women determining their own priorities and taking action without softening their stand so as not to offend the men they live, work and pray with. We have not entered a new phase of WSCF wherein gender issues have been solved.

WSCF AP has already run one partnership programme, and from reports the programme was informative, challenging, and productive for all participants. I am interested to hear from the participants how the programme has effected them after returning to their home country. I think those participants are a primary resource for us in this debate and we should make use of them. It doesn’t surprise me that WSCF AP is taking a risk and trying something different in relation to gender issues, because we have a long history of doing just that. I’m proud to be involved in this discussion, and I do trust that our region will deal with this issue with honesty, fairness, and respect for each other. I look forward to learning more about partnership in the future, and discussing the matter with you all further.

 

Women and Men Space:

Some Reflections on “Partnership”

by Participants to the Regional Women’s Programme,
‘From Gender Sensitivity To Genuine Partnership: The WSCF AP Journey’

by Annabel Dulhunty
Australia SCM

“Partnership is the means by which people can work together. It denotes a willingness to listen and to engage with the other people. Partnership allows conversations to be a discourse and not a monologue. Each member has to be willing to talk in a fruitful way with those that they are partnering with. It also requires an openness to learning and a desire to learn from the people with which you are partnering with. Partnership also implies that if there are differences that these can be overcome (though not subjugated). To be in partnership indicates that there is some kind of working for a common goal. In this desire there must also be the will to find a common ground in which those in partnership can communicate and express their feelings. Partnership also indicates an ability to empathise—to fully understand and feel what the other person is going through.

I believe that women-men partnership is extremely important for SCM/WSCF because it allows us not to be divided and for us to be able to engage with a process of understanding. Thus for instance after women’s and men’s separate times I believe that it is important to bring back our experiences to the main group and to try to communicate the problems that we are facing. I still believe, however, that it is important that there is a space for gender issues to be dealt with by women only. This, I think, is important because whilst gender issues are crucial for both sexes, it is women that have borne the brunt of the oppression. thus women must have their own space to be able to communicate their relations with this. That women be allowed some autonomous decision making processes about gender issues is thus very important.”

by Bang Joo Do-Im
KSCF

“First, it is necessary to understand the many issues facing women and men....we have to try to understand these for our own comprehension, but why do we need to? Most of all, men have to know about women’s issues, social problems, discrimination etc. Why do men have to understand first? It is very clear.... including me, many men do not really understand about the patriarchal system, it is just only an intellectual understanding. I will never forget that I am not free from the patriarchal system, this is the first step for women-men partnership in SCM/WSCF. Therefore, we have to try to find or train women leadership in WSCF AP, especially students. Because students are the hope of our movement. Secondly, we have to find or train men as partners on women’s issues...”

by Leni Valeriano
SCM Philippines

“Partnership for me is a relationship, a working relationship among women and men. it is characterized as the full participation of both women and men, wherein the relationship is without gender bias or discrimination in attaining their common goals. It is for me the full cooperation, collaboration of women and men in actual practice, in attitude and sensitivity not only structurally or in the positions held by who or in the process of decision making in the National SCM movements, within WSCF and between SCM-WSCF. In SCMs and WSCF, it is the sensitivity of both women and men of their equal responsibility to address the gender issue within these formations, women’s issues and struggles in the society and of the other oppressed sectors as a whole.

I, for one want this partnership in SCM and WSCF for it is a growth within the movement. For if SCM could not prove its commitment to the struggles and liberation of the oppressed, including the women, if the movement itself does not struggle for gender equality, if the vision is not actualized through concrete programmes (promoting self-awareness and re-awakening) and practice (process of remoulding) that encourages partnership and eventually gender equality, it would all but lip-service.”

by Carter Lam
SCM Hong Kong

“Partnership is a harmonious relationship between people. I trust that besides striving for what we want, we cannot hurt our partners. I trust that we could do things which benefit ourselves and our partners. This needs to be back-up with concern and respect....I have learned that communication with a open mind and holding respect and concern to my partners could give us good partnership.”

 

Women and Men Space:

What is Meant by Partnership?

as voiced by participants in the session ‘Women and Men in Partnership’ conducted during the programme, “From Gender Sensitivity To Genuine Partnership: the WSCF AP Journey”

Partnership is......

Women & Men Partnership

 

Editorial  •  Perspective  •  Women and Men Space  •  Solidarity

Solidarity:

Philippine Sovereignty under US Attack

by Leni Valeriano
SCM Philippines

Introduction

The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was undeniably a gross violation of human dignity that senselessly took toll on thousands of lives. Those were acts of desperateness out of a deep-running rage of the perpetrators that targeted the very symbols of U.S. military and economic might. We grieved over the lost lives of innocents but we too opposed the retaliatory attacks of U.S. in Afghanistan that displaced millions of Afghans and killed civilians.

That is why now that the U.S. is expanding its “borderless war on terrorism” with the U.S. military troops in the Philippines, we Filipinos are deeply challenged to oppose the attacks on the national sovereignty and the dignity of the Filipino people. The U.S. is totally circumventing our hard-won struggle of driving out the U.S. bases in 1991 with its concealed arrangement with Arroyo’s government through the Mutual Logistics Service Agreement.

Like the warnings of prophet Isaiah on Israel’s leaders on its alliance with Egypt, its former oppressor, it must also serve as a warning to the Philippine government. Allowing U.S. in our land is like the “covenant with death” that our leaders committed as a “sin added upon sin” for how can a former oppressor really help or serve its former colony. This is but a perpetuation of the “special relations” the Philippines has with U.S. that is nothing but marred with inequality and injustice.

We are right in forewarning that the U.S. would use its “war on terrorism” to expand virtual military presence all over the world especially in Asia.

The US military troops has now landed in the Philippines for a so called “military exercises” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). U.S. used the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) issue in Basilan (southernmost part of the Philippines) to justify its presence in the country which is highly deceptive for in truth, the U.S. just uses euphemisms as “military exercises” to U.S. military intervention.

The Abu Sayyaf Group was formed with the aid of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CIA in 1980’s in its efforts to digress the rising Muslim secessionist struggle in Mindanao. Now, the ASG is a band of bandits notorious in the kidnap-for ransom activities, without political ideology and is prevailing with AFP’s collution and shaky deals.

Encroaching Tiger

The US government and Philippine Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are saying in chorus that the military troops are in the Philippines to extend technical support to AFP concerning its operations in Basilan, Mindanao through a “military exercises” that they say would enhance the AFP capability to haunt down the ASG. But the arrival of the 660 US military troops, including the elite force Green Beret, Navy SEALS and Marines and Airforce Special Forces and its participation in the exercises is a gross desecration of the Philippine Constitution, which prohibits foreign military presence in the country. Bush, GMA and the top military officials including those in the Cabinet are deceiving the Filipinos and the world that it is just a military exercise, for reality points to the contrary. The two governments invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (1951) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (1999) but these two agreements cannot be used since the first only cover external threats and even the onerous VFA. The US military forces are going to participate in the combat operations, will use live ammunition and “with real actual targets” (ASG) and right there at Basilan over a continuous and indefinite time. In the definition of a “military exercise”, “conditions of war” are simulated, and only a prototype of the terrain and use of live ammunition is prohibited and the roles of “aggressor and aggressed” are only assigned. All of these simulations are replaced with actual conditions.

In 1898, President William McKinley made the world to believe that the U.S. forces were dispatched to the Philippines to “help” the Filipinos in the struggle for independence from Spain. But history could attest, the Filipinos who are near at winning the revolution against Spain without U.S. help, but were betrayed by U.S. The U.S. bought the Philippines from Spain for $10 million and stepped up the bloody colonialization of the Philippines in 1899. What happened in February 4, 1899 was ignited by US troops’ treacherous firing of Filipino soldiers and the massacre of one-fifth of the Philippine population or of over one million Filipinos in the Filipino-American War until 1916.

Our fears have basis. History teaches of the U.S. capacity to “manufacture” incidents like what happened in the Tonkin Incident in Vietnam that could escalate US intervention in the large scale Philippines.

According to retired Captain Danilo Vizmanos, a Filipino Vietnam War veteran, Basilan is being used by U.S. as a laboratory for its proxy wars against the people’s armed struggle in a tropical environment. It is not hard to understand this especially that U.S. is conditioning the world through the media, that the Asia-Pacific Region is a haven of terrorists especially South-East Asian like Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. It seems that US assumes an absolute authority to attack, threaten and engaged to war any nation it pin-points as terrorist.

The first phase of US war in Afghanistan had claimed lives of many Afghan civilian through its carpet bombing of highly populated areas like the cities of Kabul and Kandahar. Now, US unable to “produce” Bin Laden its primary suspect sentenced by US as guilty beyond reasonable doubt at the expense of civilian and non-combatants, US uses the “thermobaric bomb” also called BLU-1185. This bomb, US thinks well fit the adversaries Afghanistan caves which allows the attacker to pulverize all occupants of underground structures with comparable to a low-yield bomb that could annihilate many lives.

Now, after ravaging Afghanistan in the pretext of getting Osama Bin Laden and successfully sponsoring another government in Afghanistan, Bush singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “axis of evil” allegorically treating these three nations as to “AXIS” imperialist powers of Japan, Germany and Italy of then World War II. U.S. in this stance, presents no evidences of its allegations and thus, and foments provocations with these nations.

What Lies Beneath: U.S.’ Asia-Pacific Agenda

After the Second World War, U.S. had emerged as the sole superpower and has developed its military might uncontested. It has maximized the Cold War with USSR, attacking sovereign nations without even bothering the United Nations. Until now Even after the collapse of the modern revisionist USSR, the US has been consistent with the US National Security Council’s # 68 as its dogma for international policies. Its strategy is “designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish....even if there were no Soviet threat.” (US NSC #68). The U.S. clearly seeks expansion for its interests through forward deployment on countries it deems having strategic importance.

Before the September 11, the USA had been suffering in a sharp economic recession, a worse level of general crisis since the Great Depression in 1930’s. Understanding monopoly capitalism, particularly U.S. and the chronic crisis it spawns, would let us surmise that it means and would gain through “war” what it is not able to do through the oppressive neoliberal policies in order to prolong its survival. This is passing its crisis to its neocolonies worldwide. Thus, the people of these neocolonies through its “vassal states” suffer the brunt of the crisis if not the virtual intervention in these countries for its own survival and in order to evade a “tension” vis-a-vis other monopoly capitalist countries like Germany and Japan. For these super powers, military hegemony means to ensure political and economic hegemony.

The U.S. even now, has never departed from its vicious “manufacturing” of tensions in its host counties, and with the slightest provocation from its “perceived enemies”, it would embark on a war in defense of its jingoism. What exactly the Sept. 11 provided is an “entry point”, a seemingly justifiable alibi to its “war without border” not only to terrorist groups but extended to groups, peoples and nations critical to US international politics.

What then is the inevitability of war especially that for some in Americans, war has been synonymous with “work” which means survival for them as US being the world’s largest military-industrial complex? We do not forecast war but we should take note that globalization as a “promise of prosperity” for its host nations is wavering. Instead, it has been unmasked of its bankruptcy as just another tool of control and oppression of capitalist superpower nations on weaker nations especially from the Third World in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

True Lies: US Acting as World “Police”

We are wary especially because of US’s capacity to brand even revolutionary groups as “terrorist”. After Pres. Arroyo’s visit in US in December 2001, the Communist Party-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front, waging more than 30-year armed revolution has been included in U.S. terrorist list. Even legal human rights groups, anti-globalization and anti-imperialist movements in the Philippines are wary that US military intervention could lead in the US military aggression. Philippines has been the “first Vietnam” and we do not want again to suffer like another one.

The US bloody suppression of the civil war in Vietnam will forever be a lesson to Asians of US capability of a “genocidal war” with its modern armaments, in its intervention in determining the fate of other sovereign nations. The list of intervened and aggressed nations goes a long way. For example, until now the U.S. continues to defy the International Court of Justice (The Hague) ruling in 1986 of U.S. violation of the international law for “unlawful use of force” in Nicaragua, through use and CIA funding of the counter-revolutionaries (CONTRAS). This aggression took more than 40,000 lives and displaced about 250,000 farmers.

With this, the U.S. actually joins the brand of the terrorism it declared it is fighting-interventionist, lawless and jeopardizes the lives of many people.

Call for International Solidarity

We will not take this just sitting down or in a “wait and see manner”. In the Philippines, nationalists and freedom-loving Filipinos are bonding in alliances and networks like the US Troops out Now!, Cry OUT NOW! and the Anti-Imperialist Movement of the Youth (AIM of the Youth) which SCMP also convenes. Definitely, reality says that US scope of interest are not just Afghanistan or the Southern Philippines, a fact which admonishes us to join hands in condemning US interventionism and aggressiveness. In our home fronts, it is where we can best struggle against the oppression of superpower states of the weaker nations. Be it Koreans, or Japanese who are under the US military clutches, or be it on the oppressed neocolonial nations of US, we are called to unite and strive to overcome a common oppressor.

In the most crucial times like this, we are challenged by our faith to choose life over death and liberation over subjugation.