For Immediate Release

March 8, 2021

Reference: Irma Shauf-Bajar, Chairperson GABRIELA USA,







GABRIELA USA commemorates International Working Women’s Day by celebrating working class women, peasant women, frontline and essential workers all over the world. We are continuous in our fight for genuine liberation and national democracy in the Philippines. Despite the disastrous impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis, GABRIELA USA remains steadfast in struggle and solidarity with the toiling women across the globe on this 111th year of International Working Women’s Day.


In the last year, women have faced hardships globally, with the worst global health, economic, and security crisis many of us have ever faced before. The suffering and millions of lives taken by the COVID-19 pandemic was intensified and rooted in the crisis of imperialism and the reactionary neoliberal policies imposed by state forces. Women of the working class already suffered marginalization and exploitation and after the onset of the pandemic they continue to experience the effects disproportionately–lack of social protections and healthcare, food and job insecurity, violence, abuse, and exploitation.


For women in the Philippines, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc under President Duterte’s regime. Duterte has continuously failed its citizens with too little and too late done to protect from the impacts of the pandemic. The Philippine Government has lacked adequate response to the global health crisis, and instead responded with a militarist lockdown – impact jobs and livelihood for Filipinos across the country. 

Instead of securing its people’s health, livelihood, and well-being, the Duterte government has continued to utilize the pandemic conditions to enrich Duterte and his cronies and for power grabbing. At the start of the pandemic Duterte insisted on granting emergency powers in order to gain control of public spending priorities. His regime has made vaccine, trade, economic, and military deals by selling off every piece of the Philippines, from its land and water to human resources to US, China, and other foreign interests. 


Duterte recently used Philippine nurses, majority of whom are women, as trading pawns, offering to make exceptions to the Philippines’ travel lockdown for nurses to go abroad to the UK and Germany, in exchange for doses of the vaccine. Duterte continues his disregard and neglect of the people during a global pandemic by prioritizing military agreements with the US. Philippines Ambassador to the United States Jose Manual Romualdez confirmed that, “We will get something like 10 more Blackhawk helicopters coming to the Philippines within this year,” as part of a US State Department recently approved military aid package to the Philippines after Duterte demanded payment from the United States to retain the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military agreement between the Philippines and United States.


Duterte has prioritized obtaining aid packages to further militarize the country and kill off critics of his anti-people policies.  Meanwhile, the Philippines remains in economic crisis: the biggest economic contraction at 9.5% in its post-colonial history; highest unemployment rate, leaving 1/4 (24%) of the total Philippine population aged 15 years old and above without jobs or livelihood; inflation rate now reaching 4.2%, the highest in the last 25 years, and a record-high external debt at P9.79 trillion, or more than half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.


Critics of the Philippine state were met with terror-tagging, threats of violence and for some, death at the hands of state security forces. As the people in the Philippines were met with the threats of COVID-19, they were also met with threats of intensifying state violence and battling the social virus of Duterte himself–an anti-people, pro-imperialist, macho-fascist President that has undeniably impacted the Filipino people far more heavily by his damaging anti-people social and economic policies. 


The conditions for working class women in the US mirror the conditions of working class women in the Philippines. Working class women in the US, including Filipino women, who have already long suffered from privatized and state-abandoned public health, became even more vulnerable as they found themselves jobless from the profound disruptions in the economy, exacerbated by the pandemic. Women workers waited for meager government stimulus packages, food packs and cash assistance programs, but received little help from both local and national governments, and for the most part they have relied on each other for survival. 


The pandemic, as with any crisis in history, has given way to creativity and solidarity. In the Philippines, people’s organizations carried out programs for soup kitchens in areas where cries for help from the government and mass testing were met with arrests and abuse. In the US we saw people-to-people and grassroots response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on people’s livelihoods, health, and food security. 


Throughout history toiling women around the world have always been part of peoples’ struggles to liberate themselves from exploitation and oppression by the ruling classes and the crisis Filipino working women face now in the Philippines is no different. The militant Filipino women’s movement will continue to organize and rise up to oust the tyrannical, fascist Duterte and his minions. We will not stop once Duterte is ousted, but will continue to organize for fundamental societal change. As GABRIELA USA we will carry on the revolutionary legacy of those who came before us by fighting with all our might to tear down the structures that uphold the suffering and oppression of the people. 


On this International Working Women’s day, GABRIELA USA calls on all working women of the world to unite and remain steadfast in the continual struggle for genuine freedom, democracy and liberation. As we carry the militant torch of  IWWD, let us forge ahead with courage, determination and unwavering commitment to a truly liberated and free future.