Saturday, September 26, 2009

Women's Group Tackles Human Trafficking Issues

Women's group tackles human trafficking issues
By Amritha Alladi
Pacific Daily News
September 15, 2009

Delegates from all over the Pacific discussed the realities of human trafficking yesterday at the 7th Meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism, a conference bringing together women from several island-nations -- all of whom have felt the impact of U.S. military bases in their homelands.

Figures released by the Department of Justice show that 14,500 to 17,000 identified human trafficking cases are transported internationally to the United States, and the global figures are estimated to be about 600,000 to 800,000, according to Annie Fukushima, trafficking programs coordinator for Standing Against Global Exploitation.
During yesterday's pre-conference session, Fukushima said those numbers reflect only the known cases, and the real figures are most likely much higher.

Alexis Silverio, executive director for the Guahan Project, added that people who fall into human trafficking are usually promised education or a better life at the new destination, but once they've entered the strange environment, their only option is to stick with the only life they know-- a life of abuse.

He said the number of people being trafficked to or from Guam is unknown because several cases are pending investigation, and those cases haven't entered the court system yet. Guam's cases surface primarily in the massage parlors, he said, and in the back rooms of restaurants and mom-and-pop shops, so it's harder to detect.

'Wake-up call'

One conference attendee, Sister Lou Pangelinan, said a presentation by Philippine representative Aida F. Santos-Maranan made her realize there already is a problem on Guam and that it could potentially worsen with the impending military buildup.
Santos-Maranan said an estimated 40,000 male laborers would be trafficked to Guam from the Philippines and Palau due to the military buildup, and there was "no doubt" the women would follow.

"We need to give a wake-up call to our island that this is happening right in our backyard," Pangelinan said. "We can't help the whole world, but we need to face the reality that it is here."

The conference continues through Saturday, with topics covering military violence against women and girls, the plight of mixed-race Amerasian children abandoned by U.S. military fathers, environmental contamination, cultural degradation and the distortion of local economies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Letter of Solidarity from Okinawa

Dear Members of the International Women's Network Against Militarism:

The Citizens' Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa (Okinawa BD) would like to congratulate the 7th International Meeting of the International Women's Network Against Militarism in Guam. We wish your meeting success and hope for future collaboration with your network.

The Okinawa BD is a grassroots organization, established in July 2009 in Okinawa, Japan in anticipation of the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) in Nagoya in 2010. The Okinawa BD consists of environmental, peace, and human rights NGOs/NPOs and concerned citizens. The main objective of the Okinawa BD is to conserve the biological diversity of Okinawa by emphasizing the importance of the interdependence between the environment, peace, and human rights, which we have learnt from past and present experiences of Okinawa. The experiences of Okinawa resonate with the concerns expressed at the meeting. We have witnessed how the environment of Okinawa has been contaminated and degraded, how human rights have been neglected and abused, and how peace has been disturbed and undermined by the existence of the military bases in Okinawa. In all of this, women and children are put in the most vulnerable positions.

In light of the US Military Realignment Plan, our shared concerns have become more complicated. The relocation plan of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam accompanied by an unprecedented military build-up on Guam has put the people of Guam and Okinawa in extremely difficult positions. While the people of Okinawa welcome relocation of Marines and US military bases from Okinawa we do not want the people of Guam to bear the same burden.

The experiences of Okinawa also reverberate with the hopes raised at the meeting, however. Despite all the adversities, local groups and citizens in Okinawa have been able to withstand and sometimes overcome such adversities. And as your network clearly exemplifies, many of us in Okinawa have been empowered by collaboration with international organizations on the environmental, peace and human rights fronts. Thus, while the US Military Realignment Plan imposes a tremendous challenge for all of us, we together can take this challenge as an opportunity to make our concerns heard and to help create a truly secure natural and social environment.

To this end, dialogue at the grassroots level has to take place and continue with “resistance, resilience, and respects for human rights." We believe, this is exactly what is taking place at the 7th International Meeting of International Women's Network Against Militarism; people who have chosen non-violent paths to secure our life and our world are sharing information, knowledge, and experiences, and are providing understanding, encouragement, and inspiration for each other.

We would like to congratulate you on your meeting and we look forward to hearing about the accomplishments emerging from the meeting.

Sincerely yours,

Hideki Yoshikawa


Citizens' Network for Biological Diversity in Okinawa

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Women Activists Explore a Post-Military Economy

Activists explore post-military economy
Friday, 18 September 2009
Marianas Variety Guam Reporter

PEOPLE will have to work together if they want to sustain an economy after the military. This was emphasized during the fourth day of the 7th Meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism at the University of Guam in Mangilao.

The morning a panel focused on the topic “Beyond the Military Economy: Exploring Alternatives for Sustainability.”

Participating were Alma Bulawan of the Buklod Center Philippines, Dr. Hannah Middleton of the Australian Anti-Base Campaign, Dr. Miyume Tanji of Curtin University of Technology in Australia, and Isabella Sumang of Palau.

Each panelist gave a perspective of the impact the military has had on their respective regions.

Bulawan had indicated that when there were bases in the Philippines, businesses were set up to cater to the military as well as prostitution. It appears now that with those bases closed, businesses and the prostitution still remain.

She referred to the Subic Bay and Clark Freeport Zones, which formerly hosted the U.S. Naval Base and the Air Force Base and have each seen the creation and development of businesses.

Despite the conversion of the old bases, Bulawan said the Philippines continues to face economic challenges.

As for Australia, Middleton explained how millions of Australian dollars are spent on military defense and other armed forces programs. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Australians do not want any more money spent on the military.

She added that the Australians believe the money should go on helping the environment, improving hospitals and even to create jobs.

“We expect one million Australians will be unemployed in 2010, money should be spent to help them find jobs,” she said.

During the open forum, several concerns were brought up including a question on whether they felt that the threat of an invasion and war is real here in Micronesia.

Sumang responded that it could be the case especially when there is a military presence. “You have that threat hanging over your head,” she said.

Middleton offered another perspective saying that the threat is an excuse to keep military bases in the region.

“It’s not real,” she pointed out.

The women’s conference concludes today at the Carmel on the Hill Retreat Center in Malojloj or the former Carmelite Convent.

Participants are expected to discuss Human Trafficking and Prostitution and gather together in group meetings to develop short term and long term goals.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Women's Conference Against Militarism Held

Click Here to View the Conference Schedule


Women's conference against militarism held
By Heather Hauswirth
Published Sep 14, 2009

The 7th meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism began today. Women from all around the region are on island to attend the weeklong event with the theme of "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights."

"We are very much concerned that women are still seen as a commodity," said Philippine delegate Gorazon Requizo. As the island prepares for the impending military buildup, participants attending this week's conference say we can expect to see more human trafficking. Requizo, a native of the PI, provided insight as she grew up near the Olongapo Province that once hosted one of the largest United States military installations.

"We are advising since there will be a military expansion now here in Guam, we must challenge the women, especially the women and people of Guam to have a very strong resistance movement to this implementation," she said.

Concerns have been raised about the relocation of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam, as there were concerns in Okinawa about the Marines behavior and sexual misconduct. Victims Advocates Reaching Out executive director Vangie Cabacar said, "It's a big concern for us, our numbers are high from sexual assault cases already, the lack of federal funding is another problem."

VARO is just one of many organizations in Guam involved in the dialogue about how to mitigate the impact, but Speaker Judi Won Pat says a full pronged approach is needed. Asked if she was planning on taking any preemptive measures to protect them, she said, "Yes, absolutely." The speaker warned that talk of a red light district by GVB and individuals at the Chamber of Commerce are of concern to her.

"A possible red light district, moving them out of Tumon and at that time to Harmon, but I think this is a bigger problem. We need to look at the whole picture. We need to look at our community and what it is we need to do to protect women and young girls," she said. Won Pat says she plans to create a blue ribbon committee to counter exploitation and to help create policies to ensure the safety of women and children.

Said Won Pat, "This is going to be a policy for Guam, I know we can't legislate or mandate anything for the military, but when their men come into the community, they would have to abide by the local law." Dr. Vivian Damas, UOG professor and committee member at the conference said that while a law that defines human trafficking has been passed, there is still more to be done. "Regulation of massage parlor, reporting of violence versus women and children both on the base and off the base, if we don't do that and we don't work out the coordinated agreements, we are going to have a huge problem on this island."