by Rev. Rebecca Sienes, the Philippines
Thanks to a very successful Faithify campaign last year, the IWC supports AWAKE – a violence awareness program in Philippine UU communities, implemented in collaboration with the Women’s Association of the UU Church of the Philippines and Buhata Pinay (“Do It, Filipina”), Inc., an NGO that focuses on microfinance, health, and education for women of Negros Island.
The AWAKE program – Awake Women & Men through Knowledge & Education – was designed by the UUCP to enhance awareness of violence against women and educate participants about violence against women and girls and its effects on individuals, family, and society at large.
Violence against women and girls is a culturally ingrained phenomenon that must be addressed. The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP) has been trying to adopt effective counter measures to reduce gender-based violence. The Our Whole Lives (OWL) program promotes healthy sexuality, educates youth, and prevents harmful behaviors. The innovative OWL orientation session for parents is also a great antidote to senseless comments from parents, many of whom think sex should not be talked about on church premises.
In January 2019, AWAKE was implemented in Kalumboyan, a barangay (suburb) in the city of Bayawan, in the province of Negros Oriental. The training took place over three consecutive Saturdays and brought together 66 people, 46 women and 20 men.
For this training, Rev. Rebecca Sienes and Rev. Elvira (Elvie) Sienes re-designed AWAKE based on Elvie’s ideas and work experience with Tuburan, an NGO focusing on rural women’s empowerment. The first day, Rev. Rebecca introduced Buhata Pinay and explained its programs; after which an interactive session addressed Philippine culture and women’s self-perception. Rev. Elvie then presented 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.
On the second day, short films on domestic abuse in various races and cultures were shown. Rev. Elvie worked separately with the participating men, who were asked how they felt about being considered first-class citizens, their thoughts about gender-based violence, and how they could engage in combatting and preventing it.
On the third day, interactive games and activities raised awareness of the topic, and Rev. Rebecca talked about sources of violence. Rev. Elvie spoke on forms of violence and presented RA 9262 – the legal act that defines violence against women and their children, provides for protective measures for victims, and prescribes penalties. At the end of the program, RA 9262 brochures as well as the form for requesting a Barangay Protection Order were distributed.
Buhata Pinay and the UU Women’s Association of Philippines are committed to ongoing work in this very important mission of our faith.