By Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Militant women’s group, Gabriela Network (GABNet) and the Mariposa Alliance demanded an end to the Iraq War in a peaceful march to commemorate International Women’s Day on Saturday, March 8.
“Our main issue is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, and we are calling to end the war and occupation not just in Iraq but all over the world. The war impacts women and children,” said Prof. Annalisa Enrile, chair of GABNet Los Angeles. “Today’s march is to get a very strong women’s contingent – hopefully – to bring them to the March 15 antiwar rally in Hollywood for the [5th] anniversary of the war in Iraq.”
To dramatize their protest, GABNet continued a yearly tradition of focusing on women’s fashion. Eight GABNet members dressed in the national dress of nine countries currently involved in wars and other forms of military occupations, led some four hundred marchers in the 1.5-mile march.
GABNet and Mariposa Alliance members sported multi-colored butterfly wings on their backs to signify the literal meaning of Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly). The “fashion models” represented wars and conflicts in Asian countries including the Philippines, and in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Mexico, Guatemala, and Muslim women all over the world.
“What’s significant here is that FilAms are the ones at the vanguard of this rally,” declared Alpie Garcia, chair of the Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV). “America is spending $10 billion a month to fund the war in Iraq, while services for the people — especially for women with families– are being cut by the state of California and the Federal government.”
“The government could pay for the veterans’ benefits for the equivalent of funding 12 hours of war in Iraq,” Garcia said.
JFAV has been asking money for the veterans, not for the war.
“Living in the US, we are trained and encouraged to concentrate on ourselves first and foremost. We are discouraged from considering those across the borders – or in this country – (people) with unwaged and low-waged work provide the lifestyles to which those of us living in the US and other parts of the Global North have been accustomed,” declared Margaret Prescod of the Global Women’s Strike (www.globalwomenstrike. net).
“Capital thinks globally and so must we, and it is about more than solidarity. It is working out how to be accountable to each other, what is the impact of the demands and strategies of those of us in the Global North on those of us in the Global South, or of the South within the North,” Prescod said.
Brenda Baraquil, a FilAm who is originally from Cebu, carried a wooden frame festooned with hundreds of miniature flags of the countries in the world.
“I am a citizen of the world,” she said. “I walk for all the women in the world who are against the wars. We are getting very little money to raise and educate our children and to take care of our environment.”
On March 8, 1913, women led peace rallies Europe to protest the looming threat of World War I. Women in Russia went on strike, calling for “peace and bread,” thereby starting a revolutionary wave that culminated with the 1917 October Revolution. In the US, Ida Wells-Barnett, an African-American journalist, broke the segregation laws by marching with her white colleagues, and called for the women’s right to vote.
“Since then, March 8th has been co-opted and turned into a so-called commemoration of women’s achievements as though there were no more need for further achievements,” said a prepared statement handed to this reporter by Michelle Garcia, GABNet’s media coordinator.
“In the year 2008, we issue the call to all women to transform March 8th into a historic protest against the war in Iraq. Despite the majority approbrium against this war, it continues, sucking up resources needed for education, health and social services,” the statement added.
“We don’t know the status of women in Iraq, in the face of the ongoing war there,” said Rebecca Dean, a member of GABNet. “From a woman’s perspective, I think that the war affects women doubly hard because they are left behind by their husbands who fight in Iraq. When they (husbands) come back, they have this need to rebuild their families.”