What Palestinian and Filipino partners learn from each other in their struggle for the right to health

In April, together with the NGOs Solidagro and KIYO, we organized a partner meeting in Manila for an evaluation of a common programme. We also took the opportunity to invite three representatives from our Palestinian partners. This resulted in surprising discoveries, fascinating encounters and warm solidarity.

You’ve been fighting for so many years and we don’t hear anything about it (Ubai (Palestine) about the Filipino partners)

From surprise and indignation to respect and admiration

It was surprising how little our Filipino and Palestinian partners knew about the situation in which the other is working and fighting on a daily basis. The Filipino partners know, of course, that the Palestinians live under occupation, but they could not imagine how serious the consequences are for the health of the Palestinians. The documentary “Exit denied” about the refusal of medical visas by the Israeli government for the people in Gaza who need medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip, caused deep indignation among the Filipinos.

On the other hand, our Palestinian partners had no idea of the many human rights violations in the Philippines. The many years of struggle by the Filipino social movements for social justice have commanded respect from the Palestinians. “You have been fighting for so many years and we hear nothing about it”, Ubai reacted with surprise and admiration after the story of the Filipino partners about the situation in their country.

The deadly silence about human rights violations is a sad reality against which we are fighting by facilitating the participation of our partners and their networks in international fora.

Enriching and moving encounters with human rights defenders

Our partners also had some interesting meetings during their stay. The first meeting was with Charles, Chairman of the National Orthopaedic Hospital Workers Union in Manila. He spoke about the successful fight against the privatisation plans of the hospital in 2014. The recipe for this success? “It is important to adapt your strategy to the objectives you have in mind,” explains Charles. “In doing so, you need to know whose support you need and who you can count on to win the battle. We only succeeded in our goal because we received the support of the patients and their families, journalists, other hospitals, the church, but also of international organisations that showed solidarity with our struggle. Without all this support, we would not have been strong enough.”

Palestinian partners also had the opportunity to speak with victims of human rights violations. Hanan was particularly touched by the testimony of a mother whose daughter disappeared in 2006, probably murdered but her body was never found. “This is something that does not exist in Palestine. We are arrested, imprisoned without trial, we cannot see our relatives but at least we know that they are alive and they know that we are alive as well. My heart breaks as I listen to the story of Sherlyn her mother”.

Also interesting was the encounter with political prisoners with whom the Palestinian partners had a very animated discussion on how the Palestinians organise themselves in prison, how they continue their studies there, and how human rights organisations can better represent and assist the prisoners.

Finally, the partners visited farmers who are fighting for a better and more equitable redistribution of agricultural land. Some landowners own hundreds of hectares, but the farmers who cultivate the land do not have access to the fruits of their hard work, let alone to the land. Some have therefore decided to regroup and occupy the land while pursuing a legal process to win their case and obtain a piece of land.

The power of solidarity

Before the departure of the Palestinians, the Filipino partners made a photo in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners who were on hunger strike. They held several meetings on how to forge better and stronger bonds of solidarity between the two countries.

The Filipino partners organised a workshop on the situation in the Philippines to reflect together on how we can better support the Filipino social movement against the threats faced by human rights activists there.

International solidarity is an important aspect in the fight for respect for the rights of all. We cannot keep our struggles isolated because they are rooted in similar inequalities and injustices, no matter where they take place in the world.

Long live international solidarity!