In a semicolonial and semifeudal society, women are exploited not only as workers or farmers but are further oppressed due to gender discrimination and male chauvinism.
Compared to men, women’s wages are relatively lower and working conditions are more exploitative. Likewise, they are constrained by the predominant patriachal culture which sets their societal “role” as mere housekeepers who attend to the needs of their husband, children or younger siblings, elderly parents and other relatives.
Their dire situation has become even more miserable with the implementation of the worst neoliberal policies by the US-Duterte’s regime. They are compelled to spend longer working hours to cope with the increasing costs of transportation, food and other basic commodities. Rocketing costs of basic services further bury them in debt. They are burdened with the lack of decent job opportunities and living wages in the absence of genuine industrialization and land reform.
Amid this, women workers and peasants’ struggle for their rights and wellbeing and for the welfare of their families is more justified than ever. In ending the current system, it is crucial to mobilize their sector to take part most especially in the armed revolution.
Filipino women’s situation
The ratio of men to women population in the Filipino society is almost equal. However, women compared to men’s rate of participation in the labor force is relatively lower (49% and 77% respectively), both in urban centers and the countryside.
Women’s wages are lower and their working hours are longer. More than 1.2 million women work in the retail sector wherein majority are compelled to accept wages which do not meet even half of the family living wage. They are also compelled to work for up to 52 hours a week without receiving overtime pay. About 1.8 million women work as housemaids, laundry women and others who serve their employers 24/7.
In enclaves dominated by foreign companies, 65-75% of workers are women. As majority are contractual workers, they are not allowed to join unions and are denied benefits including maternity leave. Discrimination and abuse against women is prevalent as the said companies are allowed to impose exploitative conditions without being regulated by the state.
In the countryside, women shoulder the burden of worsening landlessness due to pervasive landgrabbing and use-conversion into mining sites and plantations. On top of high costs of land rent, low farmgate prices, usury and other exploitative conditions, they are further burdened with the unimpeded importation of agricultural products which will result in the eventual demise of the agricultural sector.
Almost half of those leaving for work abroad are women. Majority of them are employed as manual laborers, suffer hazardous working conditions and denied their labor rights. They also have no protection against physical and sexual abuse and exploitation.
From the onset, the national democratic movement recognizes that since half of the Filipino people are women, its victory significantly depends on mobilizing women in all fields of struggle. It recognizes that women experience greater exploitation compared to men. Added to the exploitation, oppression and suppression they suffer are the prevalence of male chauvinism and gender discrimination.
In the history of the revolutionary movement, the issues of women are recognized and addressed. In its early stage, Makibaka (Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) was established as an ally organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. For the first time, an organization clearly articulating the oppression against the sector and the need for a liberative women’s movement in a national democratic revolution was formed.
Likewise, the program of the Party, both in its first and second Congress, states that the rights and welfare of women while waging revolution and in the future socialist society must be respected. This covers courtship, marriage and divorce, wherein their wellbeing is primarily ensured and protected. The Party and NPA ensures equal rights and opportunities to its male and female members.
These measures have long been instituted to encourage women’s participation in the revolution. Current conditions are ripe to further increase their number and enhance their capabilities in all fields of the struggle. They are encouraged to participate in all lines of work—in the economy, politics, culture, military and organizational leadership—to shatter the stereotypes against women wherein they are considered as mere housewives, cooks and laundrywomen among others.
The revolutionary movement knows that the complete liberation of women can be achieved through their struggle. They must be roused and supported in the fight against gender discrimination and male chauvinism alongside their struggle against exploitation by imperialists, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. They must also be roused to help men combat the remnants of chauvinism which manifest even within the progressive and revolutionary movement.
Intellectuals must rip their illusion of equality between men and women just because both are able to enter college, become professionals and enjoy social mobility. They must combat the bourgois concept of “women empowerment” that is being propagated by imperialists and the ruling classes as this only means assimilation into the status quo of the reactionary bureaucracy and plunderous corporations.