“To be Gabriela Women’s Party-list second nominee is to be the voice of the people in Congress.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — She did not dream of becoming a legislator because she actually wanted to be a teacher. But the cause of poor women and children, which she had known and championed all her life, made her change her calling.
Arlene Brosas, 40, a child rights advocate took on the challenge of being the second nominee of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP). She said it is difficult as tasks can be overwhelming, but for Brosas, being a nominee means “being one with the people’s movement.”
“It is more of the willingness and commitment to continue to serve the poor and serve as their voice to attain that change we are all longing for,” Brosas told Bulatlat in an interview.
A child of a poor family
Brosas came from a poor family, the third in a brood of five. Her father was a peasant and her mother came from a fisherman’s family. Both her parents left the province and went to the capital to have a better life for the family.
Her family lived in one of the communities around the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where her father worked as policeman. Her father, the only breadwinner, died when she was in Grade 5, which forced her older siblings to earn income for the family. Her older brother, who was then 18, worked as a construction worker, while her older sister worked as sales lady in a department store.
Brosas, who was younger, did her own job and studied well. She finished elementary and high school at UP Integrated School and was under a scholarship program in UP Diliman when she was in college, where she took up A.B. Philippine Studies.
She described herself as a diligent student, focused on getting high grades to keep her scholarship.
Activism came after she graduated in college in 1997. She was an allied member of Tumbang Preso, a progressive multimedia group, while teaching in UP Baguio, and later in UP Manila. She taught Philippine Literature, Humanities and Science, Technology and Society. She also took some units for her Master’s Degree of Cultural Anthropology but was not able to complete her postgraduate studies.
“That is what I really love to do, to teach. I can say I am still teaching now only in a different realm,” she said.
Eventually, Brosas left the academe and became a cultural organizer. After Tumbang Preso, Brosas became a member of Ugat Lahi Artist Collective and organized cultural workers in 2002. Brosas, who is also a visual artist, taught art classes at children’s summer camps back then.
Child’s rights advocate
Through the years, children, especially of the marginalized sectors have become part of Brosas’ life and she has consistently fought for their welfare.
In 2007, Brosas took the opportunity to work in a non-government organization and became the executive director of Akap sa Bata ng mga Guro Kalinga, Inc., a nationwide alliance of volunteer daycare teachers. Since then Brosas began to be involved in the child’s rights advocacy. She also became secretary general of the Akap Bata Partylist in 2010.
Brosas took part in several psychosocial interventions for children and became resource speaker for training and seminars on early childhood care, child prostitution, child trafficking and child pornography. Brosas was also one of the many development workers who gave psychosocial interventions for children survivors of the typhoon Yolanda.
As spokesperson of the Anti-Child Pornography Alliance, she lobbied the passage of Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Law. She is currently the spokesperson and one of the conveners of Save Nena – a campaign to stop child prostitution.
Brosas is also the current spokesperson of the GWP-Metro Manila chapter.
Taking on the challenge as GWP’s nominee
To be lined up with the veteran women’s activists who became GWP representatives in Congress — Liza Maza, Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus, may seem intimidating, but Brosas said it is an opportunity for her to learn and to further develop as a child rights advocate.
She said she initially thought that she is not qualified to be GWP’s second nominee. “But then they would not have chosen me if they did look into my track record,” she said, adding that she has since stepped up to the plate for the tasks ahead.
She said women and their children are still the most vulnerable in the worsening crisis, in spite of poverty alleviation programs of past and present administrations. While she was with Akap Bata, she saw for herself how help came too late for a severely malnourished child who eventually died. This happened despite their feeding program in communities.
“Dole-outs are really not enough,” she said.
This is where Brosas draws her inspiration and motivation. “How can one not strive to make their condition better? Over the years, we saw how there has been really no meaningful change for the marginalized,” she said.
In its own way since 2004, GWP has authored laws for women and children, as well as implement programs that give services and help unite communities to assert their rights. It’s the task that Brosas now hopes to continue.
“To be GWP’s second nominee is to be the voice of the people in Congress,” she added.