Our national hero has pointed to the key role of women as catalysts for change in their communities. In a letter addressed to the women of Malolos, Rizal empathically asserted:
“Now that you have responded to our first appeal in the interest of the welfare of the people; now that you have set an example to those who, like you, long to have their eyes opened and be delivered from servitude, new hopes are awakened in us and we now even dare to face adversity, because we have you for our allies and are confident of victory. No longer does the Filipina stand with her head bowed nor does she spend her time on her knees, because she is quickened by hope in the future; no longer will the mother contribute to keeping her daughter in darkness and bring her up in contempt and moral annihilation.”
Peace and development advocates have always known the inherent power of women and the critical role they play in nation-building. Women have shaped, and reshaped, the futures of their societies. Recall, if you may, the golden nugget “the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world” and be reminded of the inestimable influence women wield.
As populations multiply and resources become scarcer, the probability of conflict likewise increases. Amid this backdrop, the growing significance of women in securing peace, stability and development in their jurisdictions have been universally acknowledged and accepted by most of the peoples occupying the planet. Hence, the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which at its core, recognizes the crucial role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacemaking and peacebuilding.
Thus, institutionalized measures that consistently focus attention on the substantial contributions of our country’s women, should be welcomed and fully supported by both public and private sectors.
Last Sunday marked the 207th birth anniversary of Melchora Aquino, widely known as Tandang Sora. To commemorate this event, the Quezon City government paid tribute to the city’s outstanding women who embody the seven virtues of Melchora Aquino — katapatan (honesty), kasipagan (industry), paglilingkod (service), palabra de honor (word of honor), kagandahang loob (kindness), mapagmalasakit (caring) and pagkalinga (protectiveness).
Like Tandang Sora, former Sen. Santanina “Nina” Rasul, this year’s awardee, is a catalyst for change, being the only Muslim woman elected to the Philippine Senate and having authored laws that redound, not only to the benefit of women, but to all Filipinos. Moreover, her advocacy in improving the literacy level among the marginalized sectors of society, of which a greater percentage are women, and for which she has been acknowledged locally and internationally, makes her a Filipina nonpareil.
There are other revolutionaries in our midst, unrecognized yet dedicated to building capacities of their respective communities, and by doing so, exemplify the seven virtues of Tandang Sora.
Search, identify and acknowledge these unsung heroines, for each are, in the words of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Islamic Sufi, “a ray of God.”