As Michelle Obama once said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
For many years, in different historical accounts, women have been belittled. They are seen as mere housewives and birth givers. Some men only see their partners as trophy wives, some teenage boys harass young girls, and the disparity of gender equality in different settings always sets up the blazes in each womens’ heart.
According to Plan International Study, in the Philippines, nearly 7 in 10, or 68 percent, of girls and young women have experienced online harassment, specifically on social media. Furthermore, the majority 67 % of the Filipino girls and young women surveyed said that they were harassed by people they know. Another study revealed that in the Philippines, male employees earn PhP 5,000 more than their female counterparts for the same jobs.
What do these studies tell us?
Misogyny is a never-ending battle for women in a patriarchal country. There is an existing pecking order between men and women. Men are considered superior, and women inferior. It is unfortunate to feel the stereotype of being a woman. Because of the continuous oppression of women, a new organization takes place at the university’s gates that are centered on the women’s movement. Protection of Women’s Equality and Rights, also known as POWER AdDU, is the university’s first organization that serves as a tangible representation of women inside the institution.
What is POWER AdDU?
As the first women’s organization inside the university, POWER AdDU seeks to provide a safe space for women and enable them to recognize and take hold of their rights fully. The organization will serve as a catalyst for women and put a halt to misogynistic behaviors not just in the university but also in society. They also aim to create more allies and feminists. It is currently being spearheaded by 2nd year Political Science student, Jhoanna Grace Cayanan.
“We aim to educate, reach out, and be a safe space. Our goal is not just to fight patriarchy but also the norms that women have adapted to themselves. We strive to have an empowered Ateneo where all genders are provided equal opportunities and capabilities,” Cayanan expressed.
The said group is dedicated to bringing change for women. POWER AdDU is distinct from other groups that it is focused on women’s rights and movements. The organization works to create a community where women’s femininity is valued rather than seen as a weakness.
“Beginning with the university, POWER AdDU aims to serve as a reminder that our fight for equality, empowerment, and social justice is far from over. We want to educate, reach out, and provide a safe environment. While other organizations can have projects for women, there are concerns that these groups cannot fully address, at least not to a certain extent–not in a microscale,” Cayanan told Atenews.
Thus, POWER AdDU perseveres to be the organization to do such that- to serve as an avenue for the women of Ateneo to be encouraged to speak up, take a stand, and be involved.
The women behind POWER AdDU
Rose Quimod, a recent Political Science graduate of AdDU, is one of the organization’s founding members. Quimod’s own experience as a woman inspired the creation of POWER AdDU. She told Atenews that she resonates with her fellow women who have experienced harassment, bigotry, and many more all because of her identity— being a woman.
“We need a collective to protect and fight for our rights and to claim our space. We need to collectively represent our fellow women, especially on a university campus, where cases of sexual harassment occur and the majority of the victims are women, because, in a culture where oppression against us is systematic, we need to double our efforts to achieve justice for our sisters,” Quimod told Atenews.
Quimod aspired to build women who just dreamt of an organization that would protect her and all women, so she organized and actualized it with fellow brave women who had the same dreams and aspirations.
The same passion for women also occurred with Cayanan, who is now the current president of the organization. Cayanan desires a world where people are treated fairly regardless of their gender.
“The major reason I was so eager to join and start a women’s club is that I want women to take their own stand, not just against patriarchy but also against the norms that have been instilled in them from their upbringing. I want to shift their preconceived notions so that they are not in the dark when it comes to noticing these disparities so that they will take a position and speak for their rights,” said Cayanan.
Challenges of the organization
POWER AdDU also has its shared obstacles. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was delayed for a year before the organization was up and running.
“I once tried to submit papers for our application for a women’s organization; OSA said they would have it for 2nd deliberation, but the school year ended, and no news or even updates were heard from them. It was frustrating and sad because our motivation for establishing a women’s org is more than just papers for us,” Quimod said as she shared her struggles.
Faced with piled-up deserted problems, Quimod and Cayanan continued to struggle as they fought for women’s rights in the university.
“Since POWER AdDU started from scratch, the challenge we faced before being officially recognized by the university is the lack of labor pool, the rejection of previous women-centered organizations, and resources,” Cayanan added.
All of their efforts finally paid off on May 27, 2022 when POWER AdDU was officially conferred with recognized status. Both Cayanan and Quimod shared their sentiments of joy.
“I was at an advocacy seminar for women and children that time. I literally felt emotional because the hard work we had gone through, especially those times we felt rejected, are now being paid off. It was a historical win for all women! It was a cry of hope and joy!” said Quimod
For Cayanan, it was such a big responsibility for her as a core officer because she is tasked for the efficient framework for the pioneering women group.
“Perhaps the overarching emotion that I had in POWER AdDU’s accreditation was gratitude. I was grateful for the people who supported us, for OSA’s confirmation, and also for the inspiration that the founding members had that enabled us to make this women-centered group a reality,” Cayanan said.
Views on POWER AdDU
The emergence of POWER AdDU calls attention to harassment cases experienced by Ateneans. There are many undocumented harassment cases that have happened to Ateneans, both in and out of the campus. For Lyn, a 2nd year Psychology student, catcalling is one of her experiences that is truly scary and uncomfortable.
“One time, when I was just sitting at a mall alone, a man kept looking at me with a weird gaze. I didn’t mind at first, but it got worse as he called another man, and both of them looked at me weirdly.” Lyn told Atenews.
Lyn stated that the men started catcalling her and even murmured to each other, saying things like “Lami kaayo siya bai pero murag bata paman.” As a result, Lyn started to get anxious and started looking for self-defense tools for when she would walk alone at night.
The story of Lyn is just one of those undocumented cases of the challenges that women face each day. They feel anxious, and most of the time, they choke on their own voices. Sometimes, victims don’t even report these kinds of cases due to the fear of victim-blaming that they might receive. That is why for Lyn, the accreditation of POWER AdDU feels empowering.
“Having this women-empowering organization makes us feel more strengthened as we now have a great support system behind our backs. It is great that the voices of the women in Ateneo de Davao can be heard more, having POWER AdDU as an organization that encourages women to stand and fight for their rights,” she said.
Many women suffer from harassment, discrimination, and inequality. They feel helpless because they have been victims of unjust deeds, which regard them as weaklings unable to defend themselves. Lyn hopes that POWER AdDU can be the beacon of light that her fellow oppressed women are yearning for.
“We have been targeted because we are women, and bystanders pretend not to hear or see, while victims are unable to speak. As a women’s empowerment organization, I hope POWER AdDU can be a strong voice for the women of AdDU and the women of society who have been victims of these oppressions,” Lyn added.
With their official accreditation, POWER AdDU has been preparing for their upcoming projects and activities. With their recent recruitment week, we will see a lot more of POWER AdDU pushing women to their potential and fighting for their rights.
“Most of our projects are still under deliberations until the official start of the academic year, but it will very much include a safespace where women can open up about their concerns, and a Round Table Discussion (RTD) about women’s rights and bodies which include bodily autonomy, gender inequality, and sexuality. Moreover, there will be seminars, town hall events, and community extension services for women and children,” Cayanan shared with Atenews.
POWER AdDU also plans to prioritize establishing an efficient and systematic lobbying system to address sexual harassment cases within the university.
“The accreditation of POWER AdDU is a win for the women of Ateneo because having a gender-specific organization allows us to curate an approach that is also specific; this then allows us to target a problem with its corresponding solutions,” Cayanan added.
The fight for women’s rights has always been present, but not everyone has the courage to participate. Words alone are not enough, which is why it is important to put our voices into action. Organizations like POWER AdDU give a whole leverage for this campaign towards equality. In a world where the sole existence of women is a threat, we are called to unify, put an end to inequity, and hope for a future free from patriarchy and systemic oppression.