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Bayanihan Foundation in The Netherlands Celebrates International Women’s Day

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
The Netherlands
April 2, 2010

March 13, 2010, Utrecht, The Netherlands—More than forty people attended Stichting(Foundation) Bayanihan’s celebration of International Women’s Day which was held in Stichting Boeg, Utrecht. This year, Bayanihan’s theme was Prevent Domestic Violence, Break the Silence, Be Empowered. It was also the culmination of Bayanihan’s project in Utrecht concerning domestic violence. Invited guests were  Third Secretary & Vice-Consul Cynthia Pelayo, Duska Sablijc Sarovic-Prevention Worker, Advies Steunpunt Huiselijk Geweld  Utrecht and Melanie Bayon, medewerkster publiekszaken ,Gemeente Nijkerk.
Group Picture IWD 2010
Voorlichters Participants with Bayanihan Board

After lunch, the programme was officially opened with an introduction of the Bayanihan Board and the giving of information  of the Utrecht project under Emancipation, Integration and information.  Board members of Stichting Bayanihan 2010 are: Chairperson: Cora van Campenhout-Alarcon, Secretary: Rose-Slotema Haboc, Treasurer: Veronica Balbuena, Members: Tess de Man-Selibio, Lein Balaoing-Asraei &  Ex-officio member: Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza

Dyanne and Veronica
Bayanihan Coordinator/Social-Cultural Worker, Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza said, “ The plan was first  to get the Filipinas in Utrecht and from there to get Filipinas all throughout The Netherlands involved. During the first year of the project ( 2008 – 2009) we organized courses on Intercultural Communication, Intercultural Opvoeding and  information sessions of migrant women’s rights, health care & the educational system in the Netherlands. The second year ( March 2009  - March 2010 ) was focused on  prevention  & awareness  of domestic violence.

Objective of this project is to break the silence, to talk about domestic violence ( bespreekbaar maken van huiselijk geweld) and to prevent it through empowerment & information.   Breaking this taboo can only be done by giving information.” The “startschot” of  the project which started last International Women’s Day 2009  focused more on empowerment as prevention against domestic violence.
Guests Melanie Bayon Vice Consul Cynthia Pelayo and Duska Sablijc Sarovic

As a result of this project, nine voorlichters were trained and a total of twenty participants attended the workshops given.  Coach & trainer for this training is Diana. Senior Bayanihan voorlichters who assisted  Diana are  Cora, Ching, Tess & Rose. Diana drew the audience’s attention to a display of t-shirts depicting the thoughts and responses of the participants towards the subject of Domestic Violence. These t-shirts were a result of one of the activities used in the workshop to help the women give voice to their thoughts on Domestic Violence

After the presentation of the project, Vice-Consul Cynthia Pelayo offered her congratulations to Stichting Bayanihan.

Vice Consul Pelayo said, “There are two perspectives on how to view silence: it can either be good or bad. When is silence good?  Silence is good when we meditate and think so that we know how to handle the challenges in life. Silence becomes bad when women keep to themselves the abuse that they are subjected to by a loved-one.”
Vice-Consul Cynthia Pelayo

The Vice-Consul then went on to encourage the women present to keep up with the effort of spreading information and to keep on talking about this11 subject.

She said, “In breaking the silence, you are also sending a message of hope to other battered women out there because they now feel a sense of belongingness that they are no longer alone.”

After this encouraging message, the voorlichters were presented to the audience. Joy Felter-Jumawan, Lana Kristine Jelenjev –Flores, Nimfa Halderman-Quilinguen, Pops de Wit –de los Santos ,  Roselle van Mulligen -Hernandez, Rochita Loenen –Ruiz, Salome aan den Toorn – Panoy, Shirly van Wijck and Susan van Oostenbrugge-Gonzales were given certificates as proof of fulfilling the training qualifying them to be voorlichters on Domestic Violence.

Speaking of the insights garnered from these workshops, Lana Jelenjev expressed her appreciation and respect for the stories various women shared and for the courage it took for each participant to share. The voorlichters expressed their appreciation for the workshop and shared how they became more aware of Domestic Violence as a reality and how being able to talk about it breaks down the walls of taboo.

Duska Sablijc Sarovic
After recognizing these voorlichters, Guest Speaker Duska Sablijc Sarovic was introduced. Originally from Serbia, Duska has worked as a social worker for twenty years. Fifteen of those years were spent in Holland, twelve of which were in Zwolle with Advies Steunpunt Domestic Violence (ASDV) , and two years which were spent as a prevention worker in ASDV Utrecht.  Duska spoke of how it was essential to get both sides of the story when it comes to Domestic Violence and how the perpetrator need not always be the man, but it can also be the woman.

To bring home the objective of her speech, Duska presented the audience with a film entitled “Dangerous Love” where five different persons spoke of their experience with Domestic Violence. The film made the audience more aware of how while we may see Domestic Violence as being physical, the psychological and emotional ramifications of this act are not to be ignored.

Duska spoke of how most women experience isolation as being the toughest part of Domestic Violence. The feeling of being alone and unable to speak with someone about it. Nevertheless, it is essential for the victim to take the first step to get out of the situation. Speaking about it with someone else is the first step towards empowerment.

Melanie Bayon
Duska’s talk was followed by a testimony given by Melanie Bayon.  Melanie Bayon shared her experience of Domestic Violence and how she was able to survive and rise above this experience. Today, Melanie is one of the faces representing Gemeente Nijkerk.  Being a single mother as well as a fulltime employee has not been easy, but she refuses to allow herself to be discouraged.

As she says: “International Women’s Day is when we celebrate our progress and when we reaffirm our commitment to the work force and to stand up for women. “

The participants of the workshops domestic violence  were also given the certificates of attendance in appreciation for their courage in being present during the workshops.  One of the participants was a victim of domestic violence . She felt that Bayanihan gave her courage to fight back because of their support and by bringing her to the police to report the perpetrator. Being at the workshop gave her more strength to go on with her life because of the joint support of all the women present there.

After all these inspiring speeches & feedback it was time for more festivity. A raffle draw was held, more snacks were served.  The afternoon ended with dinner being served and music provided by the Filipino women band The Colors.

Amidst the festivity, we think of how Domestic Violence continues to be a subject that is hard to talk about.  It takes a great deal of courage to speak out against it and to speak about it. As migrant women, we celebrate not only our womanhood and our identity, but we celebrate too this sense of community and the knowledge that we are not alone in this adopted land.

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