I. Morning Session: First there were country reports, some of which you will find in the village section of the website. After the reports, came a chance for questions and reactions.

Questions and Reactions

Sri Lanka:
Q. Are there really more females than males in Sri Lanka? (Clemens)
A. Yes. (Sr. Canice)

Q. Is the isolation of girls practiced in all religious groups? (Pushpa)
A. No. It is done mostly in Buddhism.(Sr. Patricia Rita)
Q. What prompted you to advocate gender equality in spite of the fact that you’re the only one in your congregation who espouses it and you are even sometimes labeled as “terrorist?” (Grace Chia)
A. My studies in India encouraged me to do so. (Sr. Patricia)

Q. Are Filipino women still not allowed to teach in seminaries? (Evelyn)
A. That was before. They are allowed now. (Lilith)

Q. Are there any women in the inter-religious dialogue endeavor? (Diane)
A. We’re involved with indigenous groups but not with other religious groups. That one is basically an all-male endeavor.(Judith)

Q. What is the situation of women in the Church? (Evelyn)
A.There’s a small percentage of priests who are supportive of women’s work in the Church but they’re a small minority. The Church is still basically hierarchical. We were hoping for some changes with the new bishop but nothing has really changed. (Sr. Christine)

Q. Is Lectio Divina also done with grassroots women? (Lilith)
A. Yes. This month, for example, we have vigilance as our theme. (Sr. Petra)
Q. Do you reach out to women of other religious traditions? (Sr. Clemens)
A. Yes. We work with them too and there are many NGO’s who also do it. (Sr. Petra)

Q. Do you relate the selling of children to the opening of Vietnam to global capitalism? (Agnes)
A. Yes. (Sr. Tuyet)
Q. Are there any religious groups addressing the problem? (Grace Chia)
A. Yes particularly the Legion of Mary. (Sr. Tuyet)

Q. Is the situation of lay women better now in China? (Annette)
A. They still have a weak influence. The problem is there are really no women NGO’s in China. (Elizabeth)
Q. So, there’s no exploitation? (Clemens) What about VAW? (Bernadeen)
A. I think the problem on exploitation and violence against women is true in the countryside. (Elizabeth)
Q. Do the women you’re talking about belong to the Nationalist Church? (Judette)
A. Yes.

Q. What is the gender distribution of suicides? (Agnes)
A. Mostly middle-aged people. (Akiko)

Q. Are there women involved in the work for reconciliation of the 2 Koreas? (Sr. Mai Than’h)
A.Yes. As a matter of fact we had a Women’s Unification Assembly which had women from both the North and the South as participants. (Sr. Kim)

Q. What is the response of the local Church to your women’s association? (Sr. Christine)
A. At least two bishops are supportive. They are even proud of the books we published. (Sr. Theresa)

II. Evening Plenum
Moderated by Fr. John Prior

A. Additional Questions for Clarification on Country Reports

Bangladesh Report
Violence against Women (Nonie)
= Women in Bangladesh are thrice oppressed. Violence-related issues include arranged marriage, rape, double burden, sexual harassment, being sold as a bride and acid throwing.

Caste system (Pushpa)
= It exists only with Hindus not with Muslims.
Acid Throwing (Clemens) happens to women who refuse to marry their supposed husband-to-be.

2. All Countries
Situation of Migrant Workers or Refugees (Nonie)

Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, the problem is mostly with internally displaced persons particularly widows and children. There are two related problems here though: one is with the prostitutes who go all the way to the south for the soldiers’ “R & R” or rest and recreation and the other one is with the Tamil women who have to stay 3-4 days in the south to get an exit permit. Since most of these are poor women they also resort to prostitution. (Bernadeen):

Pakistan The refugees are basically from Afghanistan and the women are usually treated shabbily such that a lot of them are even subjected to gang rape. (Almas)

Australia Refugees are treated badly in Australia and Sr. Christine said she felt ashamed to even talk about it. For one, it’s quite hard to get a permit to live in Australia. Women and children refugees are even put in detention centers.(Christine)

Indonesia The problem lies basically with Indonesian economic migrants particularly those who go to Saudi Arabia to work. They also have internal refugees but these are mainly for religious reasons. They include Christian from conflict-ridden areas like Maluku and Aceh and most victims are women. (Nunuk)

Philippines. We also have a lot of migrant workers but we have the Commission for Migrant Workers which work for them. As a matter of fact, the commission doesn’t usually recommend women to work outside of the country but if the women still go out and work, they are still taken care of (Agnes); Actually, there’s a call by the NCRFW (National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women) in the Phils. to treat the issue of migrant workers as a development agenda. (Betty)

B. Questions for Reflection

a. Think of and express what has been most striking from all the various reports.

Malaysia : The greater number of religious women as compared to lay participants in the conference.(Judith)

India: Diversity and the excessive concern over what the bishops say or the power of the hierarchy (Diane); the lack of closer or more intimate relations among Catholic religious women because they tend to be pre-occupied with the apostolate on education (Clemens)

Malaysia: The sense of hopelessness for the advancement of the cause for the empowerment of women in the Catholic Church (Angeline); Lack of definitive Church response to the escalating violence in the world (Theresa)

Korea: Pervasiveness of women oppression in Asia (Sr. Han)

Indonesia: Complicity of religious traditions in the oppression of women (Intan); Need to destroy the pillars of patriarchy particularly in the Catholic Church (Nunuk)

Taiwan: Need to not to be too focused on the hierarchy (Nonie)

Germany: The presence of so many “qualified” women theologians as compared to the Pune Conference where there were only 4 women out of 50 participants. (Annette)

Philippines: The reality of emerging fundamentalism within Catholicism e.g. Opus Dei (Agnes)

Singapore (Grace): women as oppressors; need to recover the mystical part – going back to who we are because if we are able to find the depths of ourselves, we could be a powerful force; need to find new places to work; need for a non-religious-based feminist theology: a feminist theology from the margins

c. What key issues have we heard?

India: Inclusive language (Diane); women are sacrificed at the altar of culture and religion (Pushpa); Lay and religious women divide (Shalini)

Malaysia: Women need to move to the center (Theresa)

Sri Lanka: too much loyalty to the Church hierarchy – need for women to take their rightful place at the center (Canice)

Philippines: Conscientization program for patriarchal women (Judette)

How we can really work at making the Asian Catholic women seen and heard (Evelyn)

Singapore theological training for many other untrained women (Christine)

One thought on “EWA 1: Day 1, November 25, 2002

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