Last May 16, along with the year-long “PhilFrance: Feel French!” celebration, the Embassy of France conducted the “She for She” Forum in Makati, Philippines. This forum aimed to highlight different initiatives of women supporting other women in various fields such as politics, civil society, academe and arts.

The forum was divided in three parts: “her political battles” (dealing with the women politicians, the women activists and the feminist thinker and theorists), “her independence” (dealing with media, economic activity and education), and “her body” (dealing with reproductive health rights and the diversity of gender identities and expressions). Among the notable women figures present at the forum were Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, Sr Mary John Mananzan, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and Mina Roces, who discussed and shared their points of view and experiences through their inclusive and friendly talks.

Sabrina Gacad, a feminist activist shared answering the question: “What does women solidarity mean to you?”:

Not all women graduate from school, nor do we all get decent jobs that pay decent wages; not all choose to get married, some are forced into it, and some reject even the very concept of it. Some will plan their families, some will plan not to have one, and some will end up in circumstances that did not go according to plan, while others still will not have the power to make plans for themselves. But all of us, at least once in our lives, would have heard our circumstances dismissed as merely products of poor choices, bad judgment, or letting emotions get the better of you.

Solidarity means rejecting that judgment and believing that women are doing what they think is best to cope with very limited circumstances. Solidarity means being creative in unifying different women (and men) towards improving the very same circumstances that keep women from living better lives.

During the afternoon session, Ma. Emma Ruga-Solasco, Virlanie Outreach Manager discussed the Foundation’s efforts on helping marginalized women to achieve economic independency.

We are also proud of our young adults (girls from Elizabeth Home and boys from Ella Yallah) who performed their own advocacy through a speech choir at She for She Forum. This performance is a product of their creativity and past experiences. Last January, they wrote a poem based on their own life difficulties. Over months, they created a choreography to embody their poem. Their performance during the forum was so powerful that they really touched the public’s heart and minds, even for those who do not speak their language. Following, the original text and its translation, their speech choir says:

Once I looked up the sky
For me, God’s image turned grey
I have a lot of questions, “what, where, how and why?”
“There’s no God!,” that’s what I believed in.

What’s this black shadow?
Attacking anyone out of nowhere
In the shape of my father, sometimes, my uncle
Every night, they haunt me…
Right by my bedside.

I’ve been wandering around, crying in the nothingness.
While walking, my weak bones have been exposed to the excruciating heat of the sun
I continue scavenging so I can find food.

How do I escape the life I’ve been used to?
They call me Lupin, used to snatching and robbery
Like cats and dogs, the law keeps chasing me

Why is it that no matter how I cover my face
With all the make up to beautify it,
I could not hide the pain
While my body serves to seduce?

The light of my home has finally dimmed
Its foundation has been wrecked, and been waiting to attack
It slowly eats my flesh without anyone noticing
Subjecting me to maltreatment instead of genuine care

For me, life has been unfair
There’s not a bit of love and happiness
Like a prisoner who hungers for freedom,
In this game of life, I am always the loser

Dear Creator,
Why did you give me this curse?
Is my faith inadequate?
That’s you brought me near to evil?

You, do you know who’s the sinner?
All of you, do you know when will I be free?
To the depravity brought
By someone who disguises as god?

Fate has been so unfair
It only chooses what it likes
And it chooses to ignore me

Fate has been so unfair
This is not my sin, but why do I pay for it?

Wait, pay?
That’s me! When I get paid,
That’s the only time they dressed me
I endured all the pain
I sold drugs in the street
I painted my body with colors
And I venerated the drug lords

It seems that my questions of “what, where, how and why?”
Becomes a horn growing out of anger
The discriminating society has been my major problem
My life is at the edge of Death’s scythe

We are only seen as objects
Children who are noisy with no knowledge of their surroundings
For them, our innocence is our weapon
Children are voiceless and powerless

I asked for justice, silence was given
I asked for justice, apology was given,
I’m asking for justice, metallic hands are given
I’m asking for justice, cold corpses are given

Our young artists hope to get the opportunity to perform again their speech choir, especially to advocate in the Child’s Right Network.

If you want to know more about the forum, see the event coverage done by Rappler here.