‘Comfort Woman’ survivor from the Philippines visits Toronto area schools
The Toronto Association for Learning and the Preserving of History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights brought a very special message to some 1200 students today in the Toronto area. Lola Fidencia David, 86, one of the last living “comfort women” sexual slavery survivors from the Philippines, spoke at two Toronto high schools: Northern Secondary and Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary school.
Lola Fidencia was 14 when she was forced into a Japanese army garrison and repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers. Today, she testified in front of more than 1200 students and attendees and shared her story with them with hopes that they would pass on her story to allow today’s generation to know and remember the atrocities that took place and prevent them from happening again.
Cristina Lope Rosello, a Filipina therapist who helps former comfort women, also was in attendance and shared her experience working with the Filipino “comfort women.” Through her experience when working with these women, she learned that many of them felt shameful for their experiences. This was expressed and was noticeable through the art therapy she performed with many of them. Rosello’s new book, Disconnect: The Filipino Comfort Women, traces the human impact of 50 years of post-war silence about women who were abducted and sexually enslaved by the Japanese military in so-called “comfort” stations.
Students were also emotionally engaged when the trailer for “Within Every Woman” was screened. Toronto filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung, spoke to students and explained that when “[she] attended Ryerson for filmmaking, [she] had no idea that she would be creating a documentary on military sexual slavery.” Tiffany had attended one of Toronto ALPHA’s study tours for educators in 2009 which gave her the inspiration. Post tour, she remained in Asia for a few months to work with other former “comfort women” and learn more about this issue. Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan, also brought closing remarks at both assemblies and shared also her hope for the future.
While the war ended over 70 years ago, the memories and legacies of this history are alive today. Founder of Toronto ALPHA, Dr. Joseph Wong reflected and shared that “international justice and peace must go beyond prosecuting war criminals and passing resolutions.” He also said, “[we] must bring this knowledge into classrooms and the community. The goal is that each and every single young person knows about this history, and uses this knowledge to build a peaceful and just future.” Next week, Toronto ALPHA will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Toronto District School Board which hopefully will bring more stories like Lola Fidencia’s into curriculum and in classrooms allowing more students to learn about this period of history.
For more information or arrange interview, please contact Toronto ALPHA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-299-0111.