DAVAO CITY, Philippines- A volunteer teacher for Lumad schools received the 2023 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in Dublin, Ireland for her work despite harassments and red-tagging.
Jeany ‘Rose’ Hayahay, a volunteer teacher for Lumad schools, dedicated her recognition to fellow volunteer teachers in indigenous and community-based schools in Mindanao that are victims of state attacks.
“This award is dedicated to all the victims of human rights abuses, including my co-Lumad Volunteer Teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo, who were both massacred along with three others by the Philippines Military, for my co-teachers and students facing trumped-up charges, my fellow activists and indigenous children who lost their lives in defending their ancestral land, and to the people we served,” said Hayahay in her speech in the Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin.
Teacher Rose to her students and colleagues, she was named winner for Asia and the Pacific region along with other winners’ Congolese environmental rights defender and lawyer Olivier Bahemuke Ndoole from North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afro-descendant human rights defender Segundo Ordóñez from Esmeraldas, Ecuador, Jordanian human rights defender and lawyer Hala Ahed and the Digital Security Lab Ukraine (DSLU).
Teacher Rose was a volunteer teacher in Maragusan, Davao de Oro after graduating in 2018 and became part of the “Lumad Bakwit School” from 2018 until 2021. Along with their students, they set up an evacuation camp inside the University of the Philippines in Diliman to protest the closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.
“I chose this ‘less traveled path’ because I believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social status. I have seen the pain and suffering in the eyes of indigenous people in the Philippines and I am determined to do everything I can to help them, and to stand with them,” she said.
She was first exposed to the Lumad struggle during her second year in college where she visited the Manobo evacuees inside the UCCP Haran in Davao City. During an interview with Davao Today, she said that the situation inside the Haran evacuation center was an eye-opener to her commitment to becoming a volunteer teacher in the indigenous communities.
Since then, Teacher Rose became vocal about the plight of the indigenous people in Mindanao and became the spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS Network), a coalition of child-focused NGOs, church-based groups, and other stakeholders advocating for children’s rights to education in Mindanao.
Her active participation in the Lumad struggle made her the target of harassment and threats. Teacher Rose has been red-tagged, had her home raided, and been subjected to online harassment.
“For many years, I have been subjected to intimidation and harassment. I have been called a terrorist, my home has been raided, my mother was abducted. I face fabricated charges and I have been threatened with violence. Wanted posters bearing my face along with other human rights defenders were posted to intimidate me, to stop me from speaking the truth, and to call for justice,” she said.
During her acceptance speech, Teacher Rose highlights the “dire” human rights situation in the country, specifically the indigenous people being displaced from their ancestral land, denied access to education and healthcare, and subjected to violence and intimidation. The award, she said, gives importance and recognition to the hard work and volunteerism of many community teachers despite the hardships they faced.
She also calls for the international community’s attention “to stand with the indigenous people.”
“Lastly, I am calling and challenging you to stand with the oppressed and the indigenous people, as we call on you to support our campaign “Free Lumad and Environmental Defenders, to conduct an independent investigation on massacre that was happening in the Philippines, and to call for the surface of two indigenous people who were abducted last month,” Hayahay said.
“Atoa ning gakson tunga-tunga sa atong kahadlok. (Let us embrace this amid our fears) I do fear for my life but my Hope is stronger than fear,” she added.
The Annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk started in 2005 honors people who work in line with human rights, often at the expense of personal safety. The awardees were selected from public nominations all over the world. (davaotoday.com)davao city, Front Line Defenders Award, lumad, Mindanao