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Women’s World Day of Prayer 3 March 2017

Setting the scene
The Philippines comprises a group of islands located on the Pacific Ring of Fire close to the equator. This contributes to the high incidence of typhoons and earthquakes (around 20 per year.)

Climate change has led to an increase in storms, droughts and severe typhoons with Typhoon Yolanda, (or Haiyan), recorded in November 2013 as the most severe storm ever to hit land and claiming thousands of lives.

Before Spanish colonisation in the 16th century, women occupied some status in the community. However, the Spanish introduced feudalism, leading to the subordination of women throughout the archipelago.

Today many Filipino women take on the role of breadwinner, often working abroad as service crew, domestic helpers or skilful professionals in the medical field.

The Philippine Constitution provides for equal rights, yet in practice Filipino women are often discriminated against and treated as subordinates in the home, in the church and in society.

Public education is sponsored by the government but there are also private schools. Children start school at age 4 and elementary public schools are free.

The Philippines is one of the fastest growing Asian economies with labour migration a major economic force. This has impacted on the social fabric of the country. Ninety per cent of domestic workers are women – of which the majority work in the Gulf countries.

Primary exports include semiconductors, coconut oil, fruits, garments and products relating to electronics, transport, copper and petroleum.

Tourism accounts for 10% of national employment and contributes to almost 6% of the Philippine Gross Domestic Product.

The Local Service    

One of the 6,000 services for Women's World Day of Prayer in the UK was held at St Laurence Catholic Church in Station Road on Friday 3rd March. The service entitled 'Am I being Unfair to You' was prepared by the Christian women of the Philippines and focused on some of the hardships faced by women in their country such as abuse, lack of education and poor working and housing conditions.

Women from all denominations and a sprinkling of men from Petersfield came together and participated in the service whether reading out personal stories of Filipino women or singing hymns together.

St Laurence parishioners Wendy Younane and Louise Benzimra organised and led the service, and Tamsin Stevens led the singing. Little bags of rice were handed out to those attending as a reminder of the harvest in the Philippines where neighbours of the rice farmers are called to help with its planting and harvesting. Nobody is paid, but the harvest is shared among all and this practice is called 'dagyaw'. It was reckoned that three million people in 170 countries and islands were praying for the Philippines on Friday.

After the Petersfield service many stayed behind for refreshments held in the church hall.

Some photographs taken in St Laurence:


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