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The National Organization of API Ending Sexual Violence, a program under Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity, has been centering the experiences of survivors/victims of sexual violence in the community work that we have been doing locally, nationally, and transnationally. Transnationalism is crucial to Monsoon/NAPIESV’s work because the API communities we serve are immigrants and migrants or children of immigrants and migrants. Furthermore, many individuals served by Monsoon’s programs in Iowa have been Asian women who arrived as fiancées or new brides of American citizens who espouse conservative or neoliberal politics and who own weapons and have military backgrounds. How is the current manifestation of transnational marriage, formerly called “mail-order brides,” connected to U.S. militarization/occupation in Asia and in the Pacific? One of the violent manifestations of patriarchy/male privilege is militarization, and we are increasingly engaged in connecting the incidents of sexual violence in the military to this issue. We are also examining how the U.S. military’s practice of “rest & recreation” supports the sex trade outside military bases. In addition, API women have historically been perceived as subservient and docile and thus stereotyped as sexually submissive and fetishized. Is there a connection between U.S. militarization/occupation and this perception of API women, and by extension, is there a connection between colonization and the API sex trade we ask.

Funding from NoVo Foundation from 2018 to 2022 allowed us to work with local community organizers in the Philippines to focus on the sex trade in Angeles City, the former location of the U.S. military base – Clark Air Force Base. The establishment of Alaya Center, formerly Alaya Women’s Center, was a result of the community assessment performed from 2018 to 2019. The project is for by by local community organizers who have left the sex trade or are still in the “life.” Today, Alaya Center provides programming for individuals (including women, girls, and LGBTQ) who are in the sex trade that includes the following:

Alternative Learning System (ALS) Support Program: Alaya Center is an accredited learning center of the Department Of Education for Alternative Learning Systems in Angeles City, Pampanga. Formal classes are held in the center every Monday for the entire school year. The program also provides learners with school supplies, use of computers, printer, and internet access, transportation, and meals. Remedial classes every afternoon for mothers and after work hours for those who are employed. Assistance in job referrals and job applications for graduates and current learners of the program.

Skills and Livelihood Training: Under this program, Alaya Center provides training that the participants can use as a source of or to augment their income.
• Basic Baking Lesson
• Soap Making
• Production of organic soil inputs and pest management training

Dishwashing Soap Making: This activity is included in Alaya’s Skills Training Program. We never expected this to be the most requested activity in our community and to be one of the most preferred spaces in sharing their experiences as women. We were able to hold 13 trainings, more than 700 women participated.

Health, Healing, and Wellness: This program provides activities that raise awareness of physical, reproductive sexual, and mental health in the community.
• Art and Music Appreciation Work Shop
• Self-Care Day
• Beads and Accessories Making
• Quiltmaking
• Ornamental Plants Propagation
• Yoga and Zumba classes
• Sports Fest

Urban Organic Gardening: This program is part of Healing and Wellness, but due to the warm response from the community, it became a stand-alone program. By utilizing idle lots, which became dumping sites in the community, this program wants to help the community in small-scale food production and foster the Bayanihan (Community) spirit while raising awareness of the state of our climate. The project now has 6 organic gardens in the community, all yielding fresh vegetables for more than 60 families.

Rights and Social Awareness: Alaya Center also provides activities to raise awareness of human rights and various issues and topics that affect the community. It aims to empower members to act and make meaningful changes in the community.
• SOGIE Orientation
• Community Journalism Workshop
• Women and Climate Change Seminar
• Climate Change Resiliency and Sustainable Agriculture Orientation
• HIV Awareness
• Basic Women’s Orientation
• Know Your Rights (Sexual Violence)
• Thematic Educational Field Trip (history, rights, climate justice)
• IDEVAW Gathering of Advocates
• International Women’s Day Gathering of members

The focus of Sulagpo for 2023 was national history and arts. We held 2 poetry workshops facilitated by Paper Soul (a Kapampangan spoken word/poetry organization). The selected outputs of the participants became part of a month-long exhibit at the National Museum for Social History.

Community Outreach: This program gathers material and financial support from advocates and friends to provide meals and other basic necessities for the impoverished communities of individuals who are engaged in the sex trade.
• Distribution of 3 months’ worth of Contraceptive Pills
• Community Kitchen
• Christmas Gift-giving

Ligtas na Pamayanan Caravan: is a “one- stop-shop” caravan that raise awareness on issues women face, promote the programs of Alaya, distribute care packs for women and other services. We held 6 caravans in the span of the whole year.

GBV Mapping: through focused group discussions, we were able to speak with 519 women aged 14- 65 who generously shared their stories and experiences.

Let There Be Light: is a community initiative that aims to raise funds for the installation of solar streetlights in all dark alleys in the community. Through the perseverance of our members and the help of our allies, we were able to install 17 streetlights that benefit thousands of men and women in the community. In all these conversations only one thing became clear, the need for a grassroots organization of women. On November 25, 2023 the first community based, survivor-led organization of women in the barangays near Walking Street was founded– SULONG BABAYI. The founding assembly was attended by more than 100 women representing 10 clusters. Even before the founding assembly of Sulong Babayi, we were able to hold trainings for its clusters and committee leaders. We assisted them in drafting their orientation, program of action and linking them to other institutions and service providers.

Youth Program
Our youth program has no name yet as this program was conceived by the leaders of Sulong Babayi, who insisted that more focus should be done on the youth, hence in the planning stage. We held two listening sessions with young people to hear their views on sexuality, consent, and sexual assault. Thirty-six young people (14-19) participated. These listening sessions led to a book-reading activity with Makiramdam (a Kapampangan youth organization that advocates reading and storytelling among the youth) attended by 60 young people.

Podcast: Kumusta Kumare – was originally a podcast launched during community lockdowns due to COVID-19 in 2020. Episodes talked about the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on women and their collective efforts to get by. We decided to bring the Kumusta Kumare studio to the poorest barangays that surround “Walking Street” (the red light district of Angeles City). Episodes were held inside shanties, alleys, but it is always where our listeners/speakers live and are most comfortable to speak and listen. In all 20 episodes of Kumusta Kumare, more than 700 women talked about their views and experiences on gender-based violence.

The Alaya Center’s programs are strategies for “closing” the on-ramps and creating “exit ramps” of the sex trade for women and girls in Angeles City. These strategies were rooted in the findings from the community assessment that was completed in 2019.