“Being a woman empowered in the profession of journalism, we are somehow expected to persevere to build a better and sustainable life for us and for our communities,” said Kathleen Okubo, community paper Northern Dispatch editor-in-chief.
Okubo, 63, delivered the keynote address at the 37th biennial conference International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) in Quezon City today.
In her speech, she reckoned the dual standards women are pitted and the realities of dual roles of having to work and contribute in society and manage a household or family.
“As women journalists in the task of informing, educating, entertaining, telling the truth to the public, is especially more highly expected of us, and if we make a mistake or fumble the alleged delicate frailties of being women are put to blame,” said Okubo.
Okubo also said that women “go through the daily pressures imposed by the present conditions of globalization” while having to give birth care and nurture the children and the home.
“It must be for that better world seen in the horizon that we must stand up against all odds, not only for us as individuals but for the future of this generation and the next, and the next,” raised Okubo.
Okubo was threatened with libel twice, one for an editorial on labor rights violations in a large mining corporation and another for a report on a sexual harassment and rape case involving an influential politician.
She relayed the women’s roles in driving away the Benguet Corporation in the Cordillera and also their role in making these stories known beyond their communities.
“The Tinggians, Bontocs, and Kalingas organized and mobilized themselves to resist and defend their ancestral domain from these aggressive projects that did not include them at all. The women in these communities stood up and fought beside their men in ways only organized women can do. Bare breasts they faced and stood against the armed Philippine Constabulary (PC) to stop a mining company. In protest the women had dismantled a whole construction camp and carried the machinery and debris piece by piece several kilometers away to the soldiers’ town headquarters,” shared Okubo.
Okubo shared that the older women grabbed the testicles of the members of the PC to drive them away. She said they left and never came back, generating applause and laughter from the audience.
“These and many more stories of people’s resistance and their resilience sparked great inspiration among local women writers and journalists who covered these communities and the growing movement of indigenous peoples defending their right to their ancestral domains, their culture and their villages, against government troops and a tyrannical government,” she added.
“So it is in us to know and recognize what are the driving factors behind capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism or globalization. It is said to be what history has been trying to impress on us that brings the inequalities where the rich became richer. Where despots and tyrants became real and numerous against the bigger numbers of the world population. And that women and children are first to suffer the negative effects of globalization and climate change,” said Okubo.
Okubo, an Ibaloi and a staunch indigenous people’s human rights defenders, was detained four times both for her activism and her journalism from the 1970s to 1990s. She did not miss out on talking about the upcoming Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Philippines.
“In a few days the Asean meet will start with the US president Donald Trump in attendance on his first official visit to this country. This kind of meetings are said to be where the first world countries dictate on third world countries, not on equal footing nor for equal advantage or for mutual benefit,” said Okubo.
While the group made its stand to push the ASEAN to uphold press freedom and protect journalists from killings and harassment, Okubo went further to dispraise the economic and military agenda pushed by world superpowers to the ‘weaker’ ASEAN member countries and the Philippine policy to ‘merely acquiesce.’
“We wonder, for how much more will government bid out of our country’s sovereignty…This [kind of] information usually do not hit the airwaves or print. The nationalist militant movement is expected to launch a protest rally against the imperialist led confab. The call, “No to globalization,” shared Okubo.
“To us as women in media, we see women’s liberation and emancipation in the drive to change the exploitative and oppressive situation by keeping our minds open and never stop learning or studying. This further arms ourselves with needed tools to do our tasks of gathering and sharing information to our audience, educating and empowering them with tools of analysis to overcome false information, half truths, lies and black propaganda,” concluded Okubo.
Okubo started her training in journalism in her high school years, first in her father’s weekly community paper and then in summer jobs for tabloids before entering university.
The conference went with the theme “Broadcasting and Social Justice: Women in the Media on Conflict and Crisis.”
The conference was attended by more than 70 women from Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, India, Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal, Egypt, Kenya, Tunisia, South Africa, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Moldova among others. The host country Philippines had the most number of attendees, mostly from various alternative media outfits all over the country.
IAWRT is a global organization formed by professional women working in electronic and allied media. The mission of the organization is to strengthen initiatives towards ensuring women’s views and values are integral part of programming and to advance the impact of women in media.