Mar 23, 2018

It’s not easy to talk about sexual violence. Although we have found social media as a key platform to voice out our concerns and opinions about sexual harassment and gender empowerment, it still takes a whole lot of courage for an individual to finally open up about these topics. If it’s already difficult for adults, can you imagine what it takes for children to understand such topics?

According to Unicef, 15 million adolescent girls have experienced sexual harassment. While some may think that culprits are more likely to be strangers, Unicef reveals that 9 out of 10 cases are committed by individuals close to the victims (family, relatives, friends, etc.). What makes the statistics more unsettling is that only one percent of the victims have sought professional help. If that’s the case, the pain and discomfort these young girls have to go through is unthinkable.

Nikki Luna. Photography by Regine David for Inquirer RED March 2017

This is what feminist artist Nikki Luna aims to shed light on through her group Power In Her Story (PIHS), where filmmaker and writer Jaja Arumpac, Gantala Press founder Faye Cura, Women’s Legal Bureau and UN Women member Chang Jordan, and artist Lara de los Reyes are also part of. PIHS is a publishing group that aims to empower women (and all genders) through the educational materials they produce.

PIHS doesn’t only aim to inform or empower women, but they also want children to be empowered at young age. Earlier this week, PIHS announced the publication of their first children’s story book called I Love My Body. Before we get a hold of the book on Saturday at Gandang Ganda Sa Sariling Gawa event at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, we asked Luna a few questions about the book and how we can empower children.

How was I Love My Body conceived?
I wrote the story early 2017. I always struggled with the thought on how else I can help aside from creating art, feminist art, talks, and workshops. I wanted something more accessible and that’s when I realized I should write a series of stories that can talk about girl’s/women’s human rights using art, illustrations, and simple words. When I wrote the story I shared it with my partners right away. Jaja edited it and Faye translated it into Filipino/Tagalog which is the one we are distributing for free in communities.

Briefly, what’s the book about?
The book is pretty basic. We imagined if this was going to be read by a parent or adult to a baby, it [should be] easily understood. That is why I wrote all the body parts babies or children are actually starting to discover. From their feet, hands, and heart. Then focusing on how they can try to protect their body from everyday activities then emphasizing on claiming that their body should be theirs and theirs alone.

The story book is made for young girls. But how do we help girls understand women empowerment and gender equality at such young age?
The book is also for boys, all gender. All children, girls and boys are at risk of sexual violence. According to global statistics reports, abuse towards boys is less, but this does not mean it’s not alarming.

We can help children understand women empowerment through age-appropriate vocabulary. We develop images and texts that will show examples of the realities girls and women face and also show how they can break free from these stereotypes. These can all be identified using images and words that relates to their everyday experiences as children.

Do you have other future projects geared towards young children?
We plan to release two more titles this year which is part of the first series of Power In Her Story. We are also coming up with educational materials that can be used in public schools and community centers nationwide, again, seeking to build the self-esteem of girls and address issues on the many forms of violence against girls/women. We are doing a reading book tour in communities, too, for this year. Lastly for young ladies and older women we are planning our first feminist camp.

When you buy a copy of I Love My Body, a percentage of the sales goes to the creation of educational materials that will be distributed for free in marginalized communities.

Read more:
How #FilipinoMotherTongue empowers non-Tagalog speakers
#MeToo and #HowIWillChange, the conversation we needed
Five celebrities who stood up against rape culture

Read more by Oliver Emocling:
You’re required to plant one tree each year
The crisis and the comeback of an ingenious young designer
How to save the environment, according to Marianna Vargas

TAGS: I Love My Body Nikki Luna Power in Her Story sexual violence women empowerment