Poco-poco dancers champion women’s rights

KOTA KINABALU: About 50 women and men danced the poco-poco to attract joggers’ attention in town to call for an end to discrimination and injustice against women and marginalised communities in Malaysia in conjunction with the international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women yesterday.

The group entertained morning joggers at the Likas Sports Complex jogging park with songs and dances to convey various messages.

These included ‘Kami Mau Kesamarataan Gender’, ‘Perkahwinan Bukan Tiket Untuk Keganasan’, ‘Setiap 15 minit satu wanita dirogol’, ‘Ketatkan Undang-undang Kahwin Muda’, ‘Do Not Treat Women Like Property’, ‘Hak Gaji Minima’, ‘Jangan Pandang Rendah Orang Luar Bandar/Kampung’, ‘Kepercayaanku disekat’, ‘Kebebasan Bersuara’ and ‘Peaceful Assembly Bill = No Assembly.

The protestors comprised indigenous women, trade unionists and workers, human rights advocates, youth, transgender and feminist activists and women from various backgrounds.

They were part of a three-day meeting called Fiesta Feminista which brought together approximately 150 women and men from Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, including many indigenous women, and women from grassroots communities for a weekend of open discussions and workshops on issues around women’s rights.

Organised by a coalition of progressive women’s groups Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) together with Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo), indigenous people’s organisation Partners in Community Organisations (Pacos Trust) and conservation group Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), the three-day-two-night event saw rural and urban women, transgenders and single mothers coming together to share experiences, exchange ideas and strategies to advocate for gender equality and social change.

Fiesta Feminista saw the many diverse concerns of the various participants being surfaced from land rights issues, domestic violence and feminism to rural women’s empowerment.

“This is the first time I’ve joined such a meeting and I have gained a lot of experience about women’s rights and how to defend them,” said Bai, a participant from indigenous women’s group Persatuan Wanita Desa Sarawak (Wadesa).

“I am so happy that Sabah women’s issues were able to be raised in a national meeting such as this.

More people and organizations from Sabah were able to participate this time because it’s in Kota Kinabalu,” said Winnie Yee, president of Sawo.

Yee was a plenary speaker who addressed the challenges of a women’s group fighting the issue of violence against women in the context of Sabah’s uneven development and poverty.

There were also many discussions, an art and activism workshop, Freedom Film Fest documentary film screenings, sports, games and arts, and crafts during the event.

Many new connections and relationships were built, and new initiatives for addressing issues raised during the meeting.

Fiesta Feminista is a movement building initiative which began in 2007, bringing together women and men throughout Malaysia to discuss, strategise and mobilise for gender equality and social justice.

Aside from bringing together and mobilising different groups, especially marginalised women, Fiesta Feminista strives to create a space to empower new advocates for the feminist movement in Malaysia.

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