In the Philippines, IWC has partnered with the Women’s Association of UU Church of the Philippines and Buhata Pinay (“Do It, Filipina”), Inc., an NGO that focuses on micro finance, health, and education for women of Negros Island. In April 2019, the Philippine UU Women’s Association and IWC signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining key areas of collaboration.
Filipinas for Strength and Self-Determination Project
In June 2021, IWC received a $2,800 grant from the UU Funding Program's Fund for International Unitarian Universalism in support of a project titled Kababayin-an alang sa Kalig-on Og Kabubut-on (Women for Strength and Self-Determination). The project aims to build and strengthen women’s leadership in UU congregations in the Philippines as well as create a sustainable and effective national UU women’s association. The goals will be achieved through monthly congregational visits providing a series of trainings on women’s rights and response against gender-based violence, discussions on organizational goals and objectives, and the creation of a new set of Bylaws. Please read a 2021 October progress report.
Violence against women is deeply entrenched in Philippine culture and society. Patriarchal beliefs of male dominance and unequal gender relations lie at the root of gender-based violence. Women are looked upon as second-class citizens, whose sole responsibilities are to stay home and take care of the house and the children. Awareness seminars and workshops are critical, for both women and men, to understand and deepen the understanding of the root causes of violence in the family, institutional structures, and society at large.
Through UU Funding Program grants, IWC extended financial assistance to the UU Women’s Assn of Philippines for “Awareness of Violence Against Women and Children” (VAWC) program, in four UU communities in 2016: Banaybanay, Aquino, Ulay, and Nagbinlod. In 2019, two more congregations – Siapo and Kalumboyan – were involved in the training seminar titled “Awake Women & Men through Knowledge & Education” (AWAKE), thanks to a Faithify campaign that raised approximately $2,500 for this project.
UU women leaders Rev. Rebecca Sienes and Rev. Elvira (Elvie) Sienes designed the AWAKE program based on Elvie’s ideas and work experience with Tuburan, an NGO focusing on rural women’s empowerment. Topics included an overview of the pre-colonial and colonial history of the Philippines to make participants aware about the status of women during the pre-colonial period and the subsequent foreign (Spanish and American) rule, when patriarchy became a dominant system.
Interactive sessions addressed Philippine culture and women’s and men’s self-perception, in gender-specific groups. Participants were acquainted with the 2004 Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (VAWC) or RA 9262 is the legal act that defines violence against women and their children, provides for protective measures for victims, and prescribes penalties. This law has been significant in the protection of the rights of women and children against gender-based violence. For example, VAWC reports to the Philippine National Police have increased (49.4%) from 1997 to 2013. RA 9262 brochures as well as the form for requesting Protection Orders were distributed.