By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region – As planned, the farmers convoy in buses from the Bicol Region started arriving in Manila on Monday. Among the participants are Bicol women peasants joining the protest caravan.
In the Luzon area, thousands of farmers from Bicol, Central and Northern Luzon started arriving in Manila Monday as participant-delegates of the protest caravan, dubbed as “#LakbayMagsasaka: Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo” led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
Joining KMP are various farmer, fisher folk, peasant youth and peasant women organizations.
Farmers from Northern and Southern Mindanao, who are currently holding a camp-out in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform central office, together with multi-sectoral organizations based in the National Capital Region, are set to welcome the farmers from different parts of Luzon on Monday afternoon.
“The struggle for land is not just a struggle of men but also of women. Peasant women are directly engaged in almost all aspects of production. Women are also victims of land grabbing and displacement. Peasant women also bear the burden of usury, high cost of production, and low price of agricultural products,” National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) chairperson Zen Soriano said, informing Bicol Today in Naga City.
“Peasant women’s role is essential in agriculture yet, they are among the unpaid family workers. Women farm workers and agricultural workers receive wages 12% lower compared to their male counterparts,” Soriano said.
Soriano added that this situation makes the peasantry even more vulnerable to different forms of exploitation. Due to their families’ meager income, peasant women are forced to seek alternative means to earn extra for their families, including odd and menial jobs.
Soriano said many are lured into borrowing from micro-lending at micro-financing institutions where they are mired deeper into debt.
A study by the Center for Women’s Resources reveals that most peasant women work for more than 16 hours a day which hamper their health and their participation in important activities in their communities, Soriano cited a recent study on women’s labor in the agriculture sector.
“Women and children are especially vulnerable against harassment and threat at the hands of military and paramilitary groups. There have also been reports of military personnel committing rape, harassment and child abuse,” Soriano said.
Soriano explained that as women comprise half of the population, they play an important role in the emancipation of the peasantry from feudalism. Peasant women as well as women from other sectors should join the struggle for land to attain genuine agrarian reform and a just and peaceful society.
“The number of peasant women rising to defend their lands and lives is increasing. In some areas, women are at the forefront of the collective land cultivation (bungkalan) of farmers’ organizations. These show how women are embracing their role in the struggle,” Soriano said.
“Amidst the massive hunger and poverty we are suffering, peasant women should no longer hold back and join the people’s fight for land and livelihood and against state fascism,” Soriano ended.
The protest caravan started on October 20 and will culminate on October 25 where thousands of farmers will march to Mendiola.
Visayan farmers conducted Lakbayan ng Visayas on October 17-20 where farmers from the three Visayan Regions converged at Cebu City. Regional farmers’ organizations will hold simultaneous protest actions as part of the protest caravan on October 25. [BicolToday.com]