Sunday, September 26, 2010

Students’ Agenda: Equality and Non-Discrimination


Wednesday, 22 September 2010 01:51 PM Ramil Andag 

Babaylanes, Inc. is a non-government organization formed last August 2008 composed of non-school based members of U.P. Babaylan. Babaylanes was formed to provide a venue for non-resident members and alumni of UP Babaylan to continue their LGBT advocacies and consolidate their support for UP Babaylan.

One of the programs of Babaylanes is research education and organizing that aims to develop LGBT rights specific resource materials and organize in schools and universities on the LGBT sector. School-based LGBT organizing of Babaylanes is done through participatory human rights education.

LGBT Students’ Organizations Conference

One of the highlight activities of Babaylanes was the LGBT Student Organizations’ Conference held last August 23-24, 2010. The conference was attended by 26 participants from seven (7) schools including UP Babaylan, UPLB Babaylan, FEU, Philippine Normal University, Nueva Vizcaya State University, and University of the East.

The activity brought together representatives from schools/universities which have been earlier reached by Babaylanes, Inc., or are planning to coordinate with Babaylanes for their LGBT plans in their schools.
The conference objectives were the following:
  1. To provide a venue for LGBT students from various schools to discuss the LGBT situations specific to their schools;
  2. To be able to develop a common advocacy for LGBT students;
  3. share their experiences in organizing and the present state of LGBT organizing in their schools; and
  4. To be able to develop possible modalities of cooperation between and among LGBT students from various schools.
LGBT Organizing Narratives

The status of LGBT student organizations as shared by the participants during various workshops in the conference ranged from strong, starting, inactive, to absent.

workshop1U.P. Babaylan with its 18 years of history in campus-based LGBT organizing is still one of the more established and recognized organization of its kind. U.P.L.B. Babaylan, the year old LGBT organization in the University of the Philippines Los Banos which was reached by Babaylanes, Inc. during its founding months through Babaylanes’ human rights and gender sensitivity workshop, is already an established organization in the Los Banos community.

In some universities, the participants recounted that there are existing organizations whose members are LGBT students but these organizations are cliquish in nature and are either not recognized by their schools, or are acknowledged by their schools but are not given formal recognition by school authorities.

Moreover, in some schools, representatives shared that there used to be LGBT organizations but are now inactive.

The workshop also generated some of the challenges to being LGBT and LGBT organizing in schools. Among others, these challenges included prohibitive school policies (both written and unwritten but are practiced); LGBT students being into individual pursuits (academic, student leadership, sports etc.), and unity is more on social activities but not on gender issues.

It was very encouraging that the conference resulted in the participants’ realization of the importance of LGBT organizing in schools as all schools where there are no organized LGBT structure, expressed their plans to organize.

Some of the plans which resulted from the workshop included plans in taking steps towards organizing in schools where there are no existing LGBT organizations and re-framing and deepening of frameworks of existing organizations, for schools with informal and cliquish LGBT formations.
Another major result of the workshop was the decision of participants to develop an LGBT students’ network to facilitate exchanges of information, issue-related activities, and identification of possible future collaborations with other schools.

All these will be guided by the common human rights-based agenda of equality and non-discrimination.

Formal Launching

The LGBT Students Network was formally launched last September 3, 2010 and the launch coincided with the celebration of the 18th Anniversary of UP Babaylan which was commemorated thru a Babaylan Ball.

The LGBT Students’ Network shared an audio-visual presentation and representatives from Far Eastern University, University of the Philippines Los Banos Babaylan, University of the East, and the Philippine Normal University were present.

The anniversary/launch was attended by some 160 guests composed of personalities and organizations in the LGBT and HIV and AIDS advocacy, politics, media, and LGBT students.

Some personalities who attended included Akbayan Representative Congresswoman Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao, former Akbayan representative Risa Hontiveros, Executive Director of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), Dr. Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan, Mariz Umali of GMA7, among others.

Learnings, Reflections and Rooms for Improvement

The conference participants were asked to fill out a post-activity evaluation form, not only to assess the conference based on its objectives but also for Babaylanes to identify points for improvement in the conduct of its next activities.

perciOn the personal level of the participants, all of them found the activity personally relevant as they are at the same time ‘students and LGBT’. Some expressed realization that the LGBT issues are ‘bigger than I initially thought them to be’ to ‘before, when I experience discrimination because I’m gay, I let it pass. Now, I know when I am being discriminated against, I need to take action.’ Personally, the most inspiring assessment that was shared was: This activity made me appreciate myself more.
On its sophomore year, the activity provided a venue for Babaylanes to assess itself and the implementation of its activities.

For its part, Babaylanes reinforced its initial plan as reflected in its strategic plan to focus on LGBT students organizing as it still remains to be one of the less treaded on areas in the LGBT discourse. Further, the activity also boosted the organization’s track of anchoring LGBT students organizing on the principles of human rights.

Of course, the conference also made Babaylanes realize that it should reach out to more schools if it wants to come up with a truly representative network, as the conference participants were mostly from Luzon. Ambitious as it may sound, Babaylanes goals to have participants from Visayas and Mindanao on its next LGBT Students' Conference.

Photos by Mae Hernandez and Marko Adalia. Some rights reserved.

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