Respeto Naman! Don’t Tell Me How To Dress
by Aubrey Claire Sanchez, INK
Eleven glass frames are sprawled throughout the campus. Each one is different, but the message is the same. Flattened between the glass panels, a story cries out: Respeto naman!
The message is told through the blue jeans and white shirt that reads “Beach Please, Puerto Galera Philippines,” probably a souvenir from a happy holiday. It is told through the plaid gingham skirt, knee length as most private high schools require, and a white collared shirt with its pink bow to match. It is told through another pink gingham dress, whose happy bee sewed across the front tells us that she was just a baby— eighteen months old.
Together, these individual outfits make for an unsettling collection. The garments are the silent witness to the sexual abuse of these girls, a deafening alert given by Respeto Naman, a nationwide campaign conceived by the Social Orientation & Community Development (SOCD of Enderun Colleges) and SPARK!, in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden, Empower, and UNFPA Philippines. These groups all share the same mission, to stand united and vocalize total opposition to the myth of blaming the victims of gender-based violence.
Ms. Mikaela Luisa Carmen Teves, the Executive Director of SPARK! Philippines, opened the exhibit with a call to take action against gender-based violence. As SPARK! was kindling its energy, Ms. Teves discovered that “gender-based violence is a much bigger issue than realized — one out of three women will have experienced some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime.”
Ms. Kat Alano then related her own experience with gender-based violence, that she was “met with public backlash from thousands of people where [she] was accused of being a liar, and looking for attention, and all the [beliefs] that rape culture teaches people.” Ms. Alano found that many people are “uneducated about gender-based violence and have misconceptions.” This miseducation is an injustice to equality, to our community, and especially to the women and victims. “Instead of fighting with our fists against something so evil, we fight with our minds, and with our hearts.”
The responsibility of cultivating a safer community is a duty we all share. Dr. Edgardo P. Rodriguez states that the most challenging aspect of his job as President of Enderun Colleges is “training students today for the jobs of the future… The future may be filled with paralyzing ambiguities, but not everything is uncertain. There is certainty in the inevitability of responsibilities passing through from ‘old timers,’ or those esteemed in wisdom through experience, to younger generations. The younger generations must be ready, educated, and equipped to face the immediate challenges that rise today.”
Staunch supporter and advocate, Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries believes that “a good start is to stimulate awareness and discussion about what needs to be done… The message of Respeto Naman is clear; it demands respect for women’s basic human right for body ownership and respect for safe spaces for women regardless of their line of work, what they’re wearing, where they are, or who they are.”
The words of Finance Director Jennifer J. Tan from the Office of the Vice President coupled with the outfits worn by these survivors of sexual violence, remind us what girls and women wear is not what matters. It is the lack of respect.