Protests highlight Philippine observance of Women's Day

Human rights groups claim that a number of women have become victims of the government's counterinsurgency program
Protests highlight Philippine observance of Women's Day

Protesters hold flowers and placards during a rally to celebrate International Women's Day in Manila on March 8. The protesters including the relatives of victims of the extra-judicial killings, assailed the government of continuing violence against women and the drug war. (Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP)

Women activists in pink and purple shirts hit the streets of Philippine cities to join protest rallies marking International Women's Day on March 8.

The women sang, danced, and chanted slogans as they marched to demand justice for victims of killings, housing for the poor, equal rights, among other issues.

The protesters demanded "justice and accountability" for what they described as the "slaughter of women" under the 21-month-old administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Human rights group Karapatan listed 20 women who reportedly fell victim to government counterinsurgency drives.

"We recall the many more women human rights defenders killed, harassed and jailed by previous regimes who know laws, but never their implementation," the group said in a statement.

The women's group Gabriela labeled Duterte as "the most violent, misogynistic and rabid puppet for pro-foreign interests in the country's history."

Activists kicked and beat an effigy that depicted the president as a beast with a predatory head and mouth mounted on a dragon-like body dressed in a military uniform.

The effigy was seen attacking members of the media and women protesters as it shimmied along the road to the presidential palace in Manila.

"Women are on the warpath against [Duterte]," said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of Gabriela.

In a speech to businesswomen on the eve of Women's Day, Duterte said his administration was committed to providing financial assistance to women entrepreneurs.

"I assure everyone that, in line with the theme of this year's National Women's Month celebration, the government is supportive of initiatives to 'Make Change Work for Women'," said the president.

The Philippines took top spot as the country with the highest number of women in management roles based on the latest Grant Thornton International Ltd.'s Women in Business report.

The survey, conducted among more than 4,500 senior executives across 35 countries showed that 46.58 percent of Filipino women in business hold senior management roles.

Protesters, however, said "neoliberal policies" of the Philippine government have caused increased poverty, exploitation and discrimination.

"It is thus imperative for women to build movements, aligned with other oppressed sectors in society," said Cristina Palabay, spokeswoman for Karapatan.

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International Women's Day has been celebrated in many countries around the world since 1917 when striking Russian women marched to protest against food shortages and the First World War. 

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