Women launch movement for peace participation in Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines - Peace and security is never possible without the participation of women. And in the final peace agreement that promises lasting peace in Mindanao, women should not remain as victims of war but as actors for change in post-war reconstruction.
Armed with this conviction, a network of women’s groups launched last week the Women’s Peace Table (WPT) to ensure that the voices of women are heard in the peace process after the signing of the final annex on normalization by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) early this month.
The WPT is an initiative of women leaders and women’s groups led by Irene Santiago, chair emerita of the Mindanao Commission on Women and Mothers for Peace as lead convener, with co-conveners Amina Rasul of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy and Aurora Javate-De Dios, executive director of the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College, which will act as the secretariat.
WPT is a two-year project with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) entitled “Women’s Peace and Security Project: Increasing Women’s Participation in Conflict-affected Areas in Mindanao.” It will work with the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process and the National Steering Committee on Women, Peace and Security.
The other members are indigenous leader Bo-I Era Espana of the Tuddok to Lainaubbaran ni Ayon Umpang-Enangcob, Samira Gutoc of the Young Moro Professionals, former foreign affairs secretary Delia Albert, Socorro Reyes of the Center for Legislative Development, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Myla Leguro of the Catholic Relief Services, and former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo in her capacity as goodwill ambassador of Habitat for Humanity. (READ: Teach peace to build a culture of peace)
Roadmap to peace
During the project launch at Miriam College, Irene Santiago said that “indeed, the roadmap to peace is long and full of landmines,” as she warned that “people are rushing to fit the peace deal into President Benigno Aquino’s 2016 end-of- term agenda” for peace in Mindanao as one of the legacies of his presidency.
Santiago further cautioned that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will still be “drafted and presented in Congress, but it is in danger as politicians may monkey around it” and spoil its passage. The process also entails a referendum, which further endangers the law if it loses in this exercise.
In preparation for the elections, Santiago also said the rush is uncalled for because there are not even political parties yet. There is also not post-war economic recovery plan to date.
The group said in a statement, “The WPT is preparing for legislative advocacy to ensure that Congress passes the Bagsamoro Basic Law as the foundation of the Bangsamoro as a new political entity.”
Gloria Steele, USAID mission director in the Philippines, said the experience of USAID has shown that “women are effective peace advocates, community leaders and champions of civil and human rights, and have made significant contribution in peace negotiations.”
Steele said peace and stability in Mindanao is one of the re-crafted USAID strategies for growth in the Philippines besides economic growth and environmental resilience, as much of the country’s GDP has been destroyed by disasters. (READ: Muslim women: We are not limited because we wear a hijab)
Everyone has a seat
Santiago said the WPT chose the word “table” that is preferably round “because every seat is a lead seat” and to represent a “coming together” for various purposes, which, to women, may mean to “eat, pray, love” or to talk, negotiate and “connect the table of the formal peace negotiations with the tables of women in the communities, especially those who have been effected by war and who long for peace to come soon.”
She demanded that for the initiative for women’s participation to be able to build a broad constituency throughout the Philippines, “there should be a women’s peace fund” that “puts money in the hands of women” and so that development can finally occur.
Miriam College’s Javate-De Dios said the project’s activities will focus on the women in six priority and conflict affected areas: Jolo, Southern Basilan, Isabela, Zamboanga City, Cotabato City, and Marawi City, with some activities to be held in Davao City and Metro Manila.
Women’s peace tables will be created in strategic congressional districts in order to build a national constituency for peace among women in all sectors to support the GPH-MILF peace agreement and other peace processes. It will also consult with local government units especially in reminding them about the implementation of the gender and development agenda.
De Dios said there will be six dialogues with media, interreligious groups, the MILF, panel members, and the Transition Committee.
She said the WPT was formed in the light of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the persistent clamor of women to have a voice in peacemaking. She said, “The WPT will ensure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is gender responsive.”
The WPT will also aim to localize the implementation of the Philippine National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security and the Mindanao 2020 peace and development objectives in selected provinces and cities in Mindanao. – Rappler.com