Know My Name:Veronica Malecdan

Urgent Action Fund. For more on Veronica’s work, see www.urgentactionfund.org Know My Name: Veronica-Malecdan

CLIMATE JUSTICE

Location: Luzon, Philippines

WHO: For Veronica, a Kankanaey from the Mountain Province, the process of becoming an activist did not happen automatically. Raised in poverty, Veronica found employment as a migrant worker in Hong Kong. Distance brought perspective.

WHAT: T “When I was in Hong Kong, I could see the injustices that we faced, the different forms of violence against women, and the state’s neglect of our plight.” Her experience as a migrant worker inspired Veronica to return home, and engage in work for the rights of indigenous peoples in Cordillera.

Shortly after she returned, Veronica began to work with peasant women, and soon became an advocate for a 16-year-old girl who had been raped by a military officer in 2012. “The rape case challenged me so much to continue organizing more women in the Cordillera”, she says. When the officer received a mere slap on the wrist for his crime, “this showed me how the state and the justice system do not work for the welfare of its people, especially women and girls.”

After this, Veronica took on increasing leadership roles in community-organizing work. She was appointed Secretary General of Innabuyog, an alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the region. “While there are other indigenous peoples organizations in the Cordillera, Innabuyog plays a critical role through its campaigns on land, food, women’s rights, militarization and violence against women.” Within the alliance, she leads advocacy on cases related to the exploitation of natural resources and the resulting negative impacts on women and communities. She routinely goes toe-to-toe with major corporations and the forces that protect them.

IN HER OWN WORDS: “In almost every conflict involving natural resources, I always the encounter military forces,” says Veronica. The military in the Philippines play a role in the “Investment Defense Force,” created in 2009 by President Gloria Arroyo, to protect the infrastructure of multinational companies. With the military involved, there is always the threat of being labeled as a rebel, and once tagged as a rebel, continuing activist work can become very dangerous. The military has been known to arbitrarily detain and torture people, abuse them physically and sexually, and even engage in extrajudicial killings.

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