We arrived in Siquijor on Monday, a nearby island. We were speaking at a conference at Siquijor State College. The conference, “Gender Sensitivity and Understanding Women and Girl’s Rights” was really the first of its kind for the college, and even for the region. One of the staff members was telling us during the lunch break that they haven’t had a conversation like this at their school before. Talking about domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and women’s rights should not be something that is not talked about – anywhere.
The students obviously had questions about these topics, and many students wrote their questions down to be read aloud during the open forum. One girl asked about filing a law suit against her boyfriend for contracting an STD from him. Another student asked whether homosexual males are often trafficked. They had many questions about why trafficking happens, what is considered sexual assault, and what the resources are for trafficking victims. There was not a shortage of good questions to answer and expand on.
During lunch we had the conversation that just because people aren’t already talking about these things doesn’t mean they’re not happening. These students may not be hearing about sexual harassment in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, As statistics would go, many students in the room probably come from a home where violence is present. For them to hear about the laws that protect them is important, empowering even.
To stand in an auditorium on the other side of the world and talk about these issues certainly provides a global perspective on gender issues. No country is alone in combatting these crimes – all too often targeted at women. Women and men both need to take responsibility for these outcomes and realize that until we combat these crimes together, unified as a people, then there will also be gender biases and a skewed victim pool.
The conference was incredibly successful, and we were so honored to participate.