This Friday, November 25, the country will observe a special day that few people know about, much less have heard of – the National Consciousness Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women And Children (VAWC).
VAWC is still very much “one of the country’s pervasive social problems and grave manifestations of gender inequality,” said the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
The PCW is a national government agency mandated to “to review, evaluate, and recommend measures, including priorities to ensure the full integration of women for economic, social, and cultural development at national, regional, and international levels, and to ensure further equality between women and men.”
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, the Philippines is ranked 19th out of 146 countries in terms of efforts toward gender parity.
Despite the country’s gains in attempting to narrow down the gender gap, it still has much to do in terms of eliminating VAWC.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s National Demographic Health Surveys of 2008, 2013, and 2017 showed that “1 in 4 Filipino women aged 15-49 had experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husband or partner.”
Globally, the figure is higher – “1 in 3 women (35 percent) have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner or non-partner in their lifetime,” according to the World Health Organization.
To understand how prevalent VAWC is, try this experiment for yourselves – round up several friends and ask how many have been hurt or assaulted emotionally, verbally, physically, economically, or in any other way when they were children or as adults.
In 2013, President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10398: An Act Declaring November Twenty-Five Of Every Year As “National Consciousness Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women And Children.”
This law recognizes “the need to establish a comprehensive and structured campaign for national consciousness on anti-violence against women.”
In 2006, President Gloria Arroyo signed Proclamation 1172: Declaring November 25 to December 12 of Every Year as the “18-Day Campaign to End Violence against Women.” The campaign is spearheaded annually by the PCW.
I write this column today, to spread awareness about this event and encourage you to look around your homes, your communities to see how you can reflect on this issue and be engaged in efforts to eradicate the machismo mentality and toxic elements of patriarchal culture that enable behaviors that lead to VAWC.
VAWC violates the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children, who are among the most vulnerable sectors in society.
The effects of the trauma caused by such violence and abuse lingers on for a long time, and affects the entire person holistically, from their overall personality and welfare to their health, well-being, and personal development.
As such, because it impairs the woman on so many levels, it also affects her family and communities.
Given the severe impact of VAWC, the Philippines has increased efforts to bring awareness of the issue to the attention of the general public.
In line with this is PCW’s “annual participation in the global campaign to end VAW which the Philippines has been observing since 2002,” aligned with Proc. 1172 and other relevant laws.
According to the PCW, the 2022 national campaign highlights “the strides made in anti-VAW efforts in line with the Philippines’ 20th year of participation in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.”
This year’s campaign also seeks “to gain insights as to where the country is in understanding and acting on VAW.
“The major activities will endeavor to gauge the awareness of citizens on VAW and its forms and manifestations as well as underscore the gains attained in the journey towards a VAW-free community.”
Among this year’s campaign activities are a launch on Nov. 25 and the kick-off of other activities such as the Orange Exhibit, VAW Dokyu, and the dissemination of informational and educational materials.
“The Orange Exhibit: Journey towards a VAW-free Philippines” showcases the highlights of 20 years of Philippine anti-VAW campaigns, from 2002 to the present.
The social media hashtags for public discourse are #RaiseYourVoice to tag content related to personal experiences of violence; #VowToEndVAW to mark a commitment campaign to contribute to a VAW-free community; and #VAWfreePH to sustain the drive towards a VAW-free community.
PCW has digital materials, stickers, and other online collaterals that may be used by government agencies, schools, institutions, LGUs, and the general public to promote the advocacy.
As a victim of domestic violence myself, this is one of my advocacies.
The trauma from those dark days affected not only myself but my children as well; we are still healing from the hurt and pain.
Now, more than ever, with the issue still very much prevalent in society and causing untold harm to generations of Filipinos, it is time to end violence against women and children.
* * * Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, member of the Manila Critics Circle, and judge of the National Book Awards. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO