I went to the UCC venue last month to meet the 3 lady senatoriables of The Liberal Party (LP). Sonia Roco wasn’t able to go so we met with Risa Hontiveros & Yasmin Lao. I have already written an article about Risa Hontiveros and about her thoughts on the RH bill. However, I wondered who Yasmin Lao was though.
I’ve never heard of Yasmin Lao before and so I had no idea where she comes from and what her credentials were. I sat there and waited for my turn to ask the lady senatorial candidate. I wanted to know what she has been fighting for and what she plans to do if she lands a position in the senate. She was wearing something to cover her hair and so I assumed that she’s a Muslim.
I asked her, “Can you tell us who you are and what you are fighting for?“. She smiled and answered very warmly.
I used to be a professor of psychology at Mindanao State University since 1988 until 1997 when I founded Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF) but even then coming from a culture where early marriage and arranged marriages are rampant where you see young girls (bride) and grooms. I’m a witness and I’ve seen how, in terms of the right of the children to pursue their own full development particularly education and career. I’ve seen the impact to bright promising girls who dream of becoming somebody professional. then they get married at the age of 14 and then most of them if they do get pregnant immediately, get no schooling, they stop schooling. Then of course, no economic opportunity.
So I’ve seen the impact of that, particularly in women, and that’s where my advocacy for women’s right started, and how I’ve started questioning the culture and gender issues. So that has been my main advocacy, looking at the code of Muslim personal laws, looking at international laws, national laws, and see how these can work together on the advantage of women. For example, while the code of Muslim personal laws do not categorically state that what is provided for in the violence against women and children, where it’s a criminal offense. But women don’t know, Particularly among Muslim women, that there is a provision in the code of Muslim personal law that a woman can really ask for divorce, because divorce is allowed if there’s harm, if she’s put in harm.
So what we would do is that we would encourage Muslim women to use the code of Muslim personal law to file for if they want divorce then use the [separate Muslim law] for the criminal. So that’s an example of what I’m saying, how do we help women to maximize the available tools that they have for themselves.. that has been my advocacy and of course working among adolescents, Muslim women girls and boys on gender issues and reproductive health issues, and women political leaders on gender responsive governance.
And before I resigned, I’m working very closely among farmers and fisher folks on sustainability particularly natural farming and fishing and I’ve worked in the evacuation center and that’s what I’m very passionate about — peace and the peace process because I’ve seen the impact of the conflict among civilians particularly on women.
If you’ve covered or if you’ve visited evacuation centers pag may sunog or may bagyo, people stay in the evacuation centers, you’ve seen the conditions, it’s really inhuman, it lowers the human dignity much more for women when we have special needs — toilet, CR and all. When I was in the evacuation center, if you just flee and you only have your clothes on your body you don’t even have your underwear with you the more you will feel [the impact], and you stay in a room with strangers you don’t know. And of course, you need napkins, you need underwear which you don’t find in emergency kit that they give because our understanding in the evacuation center they need food, they need water and that’s it but then equally if not more than that is that when your own self concept and your own human dignity it adds up to the misery and the psychological impact. Kahit may pagkain diyan, if you feel like you’re depressed about the situation..
Read the rest of the article at Blogwatch.ph.
Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOsG015C1yI
Pictures – http://www.flickr.com/photos/rochellesychua/sets/72157623671504606/