PHILIPPINES: CWEARC Celebrated its Gains in 25 years of Empowering Indigenous Women in the Cordillera

In time for the International Day of Toiling Women, on 8 March 2012, the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) celebrated its 25th year of partnership with women’s organizations in the Cordillera region particularly indigenous women in line with its mission of empowering indigenous women in the region.

The occasion was attended by 220 delegates from its local partners of women’s organizations, communities in the region, networks and allies. “Indeed, it was a reunion of women’s organizations and leaders that CWEARC partnered with in different periods of the 25 years of existence of CWEARC”, said Vernie Yocogan-Diano, current executive director of the Center.

Over CWEARC’s  years of service, its programs have developed women as leaders, organizers,  trainers on women’s rights and issues, facilitators on community discussions,  documentors  and  researchers, negotiators for community benefits and interests, conflict-resolvers and peace-builders and as actors in defending the food sovereignty of their communities.

Ms.  Geraldine Fiagoy, the Chairperson  of CWEARC’s Board who presented the 25 years of CWEARC’s meaningful partnership and empowering of indigenous women  added, “CWEARC’s programs have established  and paved the development of  Innabuyog,  the alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera,  began the work of gender-mainstreaming in the Cordillera when no group was talking about gender and women’s rights and have pursued this role until the present, produced useful education and advocacy materials which facilitated awareness-raising on women’s rights and empowerment”.

Feedbacks from the academe, church organizations, NGOs and women’s groups including government acknowledge CWEARC as a credible source of information and studies on women’s issues in the region. As part of  its support to the Cordillera women’s movement, CWEARC has initiated networks as well as linked with women’s groups and networks at national and international levels  for joint undertakings in support of indigenous women’s rights. “This is an important role that CWEARC should continue to be at lead”, said Myra Caguiao, a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Baguio.

Testimonies of partners have affirmed such gains. Innabuyog acknowledged the role of CWEARC in building the women’s movement in the Cordillera from the setting of the regional alliance in 1990 to the establishment of  provincial and sectoral chapters to building  their capacities in trainings on women’s rights to campaigns.

Ms. Jeannette Ribaya from the  Center for Health Education, Services and Trainings in the Cordillera acknowledged the involvement of  CWEARC in landmark cases on violence against women like the case of Myna Diones, a minor and survivor of a massacre in 1992, the sexual harassment involving a top official of the Department of Education in Baguio in 1994, another sexual harassment case involving a priest in 2003, and a case of violence in the workplace within the DEPED office in Baguio in 2007. Aside from being in the forefront of these cases, CWEARC also learned its lessons in handling VAW cases and have established networks, contacts with lawyers and other individuals in support of such cases.

“The trainings provided by CWEARC from the onset of our struggle against 2 mining firms in Conner in 2005, its publication of our struggles and its facilitation of internationalizing our struggle have kept us strong to stop the mining application in Conner, Apayao”, Tina Moyaen of the Save the Apayao People’s Organization shared.

In her message, Dr. Manuela Pena, regional director of the Overseas Workers and Welfare Association (OWWA) said that CWEARC’s program on women migrants is a big contribution to women overseas Filipino workers and their families, given the limitations of government’s services. Flora Belinan, a former OFW herself and now a community organizer shared that CWEARC’s trainings on migrants rights and welfare and its assistance and advocacy for distressed OFWs, have enabled establishment of Migrante chapters in Baguio and in Benguet.

Ms. Myra Caguioa,  a former staff of CWEARC  who now teaches at the University of the Philippines Baguio added,  “The publications, research, education and advocacy materials of CWEARC has provided a relevant perspective on the situation and struggles of indigenous women. These resources  speak about  Cordillera women’s realities and actions, and are enlightening materials for students and the academics”.

In a sent message,Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz,  founding executive director of CWEARC advised CWEARC to jointly propose and implement relevant responses, persist in pressuring the State to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, continue to monitor how these human rights instruments are implemented.

The celebration also gave a tribute to women martyrs in the Cordillera women’s movement especially those with particular contribution to CWEARC’s programs—Naty Fokleg  and Loreta B. Yocogan of Mountain Province, Alyce Claver and Mercy Gonzalo of Kalinga and Jean Macliing who served as a member of the Board of CWEARC.

The event was closed by a poem composed and read by Ms. Luchie Maranan, editorial consultant of CWEARC, with the ending that goes—“Because twenty five years is a continuing birthing and withering, and we hold in our hands the chart and record of our countless battles, not fate, destiny nor grace from false saviours will mark the limits or our strength, we forge on in cadence with other familiar surging steps, overcoming the barriers, taking every brave leap forward while chanting our victorious song.”

The delegation marched their inspiration to the main streets of Baguio with other women and peoples’ organizations in Baguio in observance of the International Day of Toiling Women.

Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center, Inc. (CWEARC)
#16 Loro St., Dizon Subdivision, Baguio City 2600 Philippines
email address:
tel. no.: +63 74 442 5347
executive director:  Vernie Yocogan-Diano

Empowering indigenous women in the Cordillera region, Philippines.

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