Warrior Wednesday: Speaking Out

Globally, one in seven adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 are currently married or in union – UNICEF global databases (2016)

1.1 billion girls exists in the world today, a powerful number that could shape the future of this planet. They hold so much potential and yet they face discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities killing their dreams and their future.

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Across the globe, rates of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 girls marry before age 18; about one in eight were married or in union before age 15.

 

I grew up in a quiet city, almost unheard of by most of my fellow Filipinos until one major flood happened. As a girl, I grew up accepting the norm that men should have the last say. My mother was in an abusive relationship with my father and even though she spoke out against him, it took her almost 25 years before she finally took the courage to end the relationship. Seeing this dysfunction at home plus going to a private school with kids from rich families deeply affected how I dealt with the world. I had to deal with a lot of internal conflicts as a child that back then did not seem to be significant. It finally developed into a wall to keep people away. I grew up introverted who was more comfortable of the thought of death than the thought of talking to people. When I reach my teenage years, I learned a bit of mischief on how to have an acceptable way of escaping classes. I joined school competitions until that one day where I ended up in an Extemporaneous Speaking competition. I placed second (or third forgot exactly) and almost had the chance to represent our school (I came late the day of the competition). That is when I knew that speaking out was not a weakness but a strength of mine.

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The struggle to speak out is never easy. There are a lot of girls today who like me are going through a lot of things. Thinking about my childhood, I still had it better compared to most of the girls now. I did not have to deal with child labor or child marriage but in developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. This means the futures of 47,700 girls are derailed every day.

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Me with some of the Regional Ambassador for Girl Rising across the globe.

I joined Girl Rising and became one of the Regional Ambassador for Philippines because of this pervasive thought about my own childhood and the current number of girl child suffering each second because of the lack of education and empowerment. They are voiceless victims of abuse and inequality. No one is speaking out on their behalf. We cannot let this issue remain as an elephant in the room. I started the Girl Rising Philippines Facebook Page out of the hope of reaching out to the women and girls all over the world, to give them voice and courage so they can fight for their education.

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“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”

I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde

Right now, I am working with the rest of the Regional Ambassadors for Philippines in putting up content and we are open for collaboration. I hope you join me in speaking out about this cause.  Feel free to comment here or email at girlrisingph@gmail.com

Levelling the Playing Field in Tacloban: Empowering Women and Girls through Football

“Why shouldn’t we play? We have feet to use, eyes to see, mind to think and the confidence to win. Everything that a boy can do, we also can.”, 12-year-old Cresil Mae Penachos of Borongan said during the LFA Women’s Day Football Festival last March 8, 2014. Cresil Mae, together with 77 other girls and women went to University of the Philippines Visayas – Tacloban College football field to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Participants all lined up during the opening ceremony
Participants all lined up during the opening ceremony

Throughout the course of history, women have always been considered as the weaker gender. Football, being the most prominent team sport played by women, played at the professional level in many countries throughout the world with 176 national teams take part internationally.

Women’s football has faced many struggles throughout its history. In 1921, The Football Association initiated a ban that disallowed women’s football games from the grounds used by its member clubs and it stayed in effect until July 1971. Despite being a developing country with an immense history with European countries, football never won the hearts of the Filipinos.

Waiting for the games to start.
Waiting for the games to start.

Mention ‘AZKALS’ to any Filipino and they would immediately say “Men’s National Team for Football”, and yet when you ask them about ‘MALDITAS’, they will only give you a blank stare. It is because unlike the men’s team, there were less media exposure for the women until the recent years when our women’s team won the 2012 LA Viking Cup. Although the Women’s National Team for Football has competed since 1981, the country has yet to give equal opportunities for women seeking to have a career in football. While there is a men’s national league for football, there are no leagues for women.

Teams warming up
Teams warming up

The case is no different for Tacloban, Fundlife International however is creating a positive change in the field of sports, with their ‘Football for Life’ (F4L) programme wherein they conduct daily training sessions in nine sites across Tacloban. As a show of support for International Women’s Day, Fundlife Int’l encouraged girls under the F4L to join and was not disappointed. More than half of the participants at the festival were from the programme.

Freedom wall celebrating womanhood.
Freedom wall celebrating womanhood.

It was a fun-filled yet competitive day, where girls shared their love for football and meet new friends. One of the few sport moments, where boys and men were the sideliners ad spectators. Among the teams that joined the festival were the Tacloban Pintadas, an all-girl team formed last January to inspire the participants to actively engage in the programme. Coming back from their first competition in Thirsty Cup held in Cebu, where they managed to make it into the semi-finals beating more experienced teams, the girls once again showcased their skills during the event where they secured a 4th place finish.

F4L girls sharing their smiles
F4L girls having their Kodak moment

Fundlife International sees the vital role that football can have in a woman’s life. According to the United Nations, when girls get involved in sports they are more likely to attend school and participate in society. When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society.

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Women’s football has huge potential in the Philippines, with the Malditas currently rank 80th in FIFA despite the recent fiasco which stopped the women from participating in international competitions last year. Filipinas are the most undervalued talents in Philippine football. Let us not indignation or despondency paralyze us from pursuing women’s right to football and sports in general. We need to prove why we rank 9th in world for gender equality.
In spite of the limited promotion and opportunities across the globe, popularity and participation in women’s football continues to grow. Women’s football around the world tends be a mere speck of dust compared to the men’s but we can turn this massive stumbling block into a golden opportunity. A massive transformation has yet to happen for Filipina football players. Filipinas can excel in football given their performance in the international matches but to secure the winning formula in the global arena in the future, we have to start improving local women’s football as early as now. We can help these girls in their paths to success and equality.

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Very few girls who play Football will make it to the top-level, but more than producing champion female football players, Fundlife International’s aim is to allow girls to believe they can become champions in any career they choose to pursue. Football provides a visible stage for girls and women to stand equal to men. If we can inculcate that message to all girls to take off the field, then we’re on our way to ensuring a farer, more gender unbiased future exists.

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For now, let’s play, smile and continue to share and work on our dreams, both girls and boys, as one.