When I started Kuros! three years ago, we had one goal: get pepper spray into the hands of women so they could defend themselves in the event of an assault. If we could prevent just one woman from being sexually assaulted, it made everything worth while. We sell products that support this mission, with every sale funding the distribution of pepper spray to women in our global network. As I reflect back on the past and look forward towards the future, it is amazing to see what started as a simple idea, being embraced by people the world over.
This last weekend saw the establishment of our latest distribution network in South East Asia, as we expand our efforts into the Philippines - a country that has experienced colonization, occupation, revolution and war. The cultural melting pot of the Pacific, developing more and more each day. However, like most developing countries, women's issues in particular usually fall very low on the "governmental priority list" and as such, the responsibilities are shouldered by non-governmental organizations(NGOs) more often than not.
One of the cornerstones of our project as we expand into these developing nations, has been the integration of these established Women's Rights NGOs into our distribution efforts. No one knows the situation better than people living, and working on the ground in these countries; and for our expansion into the Philippines we patterned with GABRIELA. The leading Women's Rights NGO in the Philippines working towards gender equality and social justice; they were founded over thirty years ago, named after Gabriela Silang who lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th century.
With offices and outreach programs all across the Philippines, we knew that GABRIELA was a perfect partner for our pepper spray distribution into South Eastern Asia. For each partnership, we travel to meet with our NGO partners, assist them in their first distribution events, and establish a "Distribution Network". Showing them how to effectively use the free provided SABRE/Kuros! pepper spray, and show them how to conduct their own distribution events. Once we have a network in place, we can continue to send shipments of pepper spray knowing that not only will the cans reach women who need them, but the recipients will know how to effectively use pepper spray if their lives are ever at risk.
We conducted two main distribution events on our recent trip to meet with GABRIELA, providing pepper spray to women in Angeles and Tondo(Manila). After an information session about Violence Against Women, and the use of pepper spray for self defense, we offered each woman in attendance their own can. In Angeles and Tondo(Manila) we focused both on both older and younger women from the poorer communities who were working or attending local colleges; many being forced to walk back to their communities at night, the chances of being assaulted on their return trips are exponentially higher. Another main advantage of the SABRE pepper spray that Kuros!™ distributes is the addition of a permanent UV marking dye to the pepper spray. This allows a woman to identify an attacker to the police, a problem that in many developing countries comes down to "his word over hers"... however, with the ability to easily detect if someone has been sprayed with the pepper spray this alleviates any deniability the rapist or local police may have.
GABRIELA not only knows the populations of women most at risk throughout the country, but how to also organize and distribute to them. They also organized national Filipino media to come out and cover our distribution, with several different TV crews and newspaper photographers documenting the event. Our efforts making the national 6PM news, and front pages of several Filipino news papers.
The most fulfilling aspect of the trip, was how positively the national media and Filipino people received the idea; for the women living in conditions where an attack is likely to occur, and likely to go unpunished - they have never had a realistic way to defend themselves. While pepper spray is legal and for sale in the Philippines(₱650), it is economically unattainable to women living on ₱50 a day. I was inundated with emails from people thanking us for our efforts, asking how they can buy pepper spray of their own, and voicing their opinions on how this will save lives. We are extremely happy in our partnership with GABRIELA in the Philippines and look forward to expanding our pepper spray distribution efforts throughout the country.
For those who have messaged me:
If you live in the Philippines, you can purchase the SABRE pepper spray at "Hahn Sporting Goods" stores or online at http://www.hahn.com.ph/ (I have no affiliation with Hahn Industries)
If you are unable to afford it, know groups of women who need it, or want to attend the next distribution event in your area please reach out to your local GABRIELA office http://www.gabrielaph.com/