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Month: May 2021

Month: May 2021

Changing the Narrative: Journalists as Allies for Peace in the Philippines

May 18, 2021

By John Rizle Saligumba, Communications Coordinator, Balay Mindanaw and Mallika Iyer, Asia Programs Coordinator and Humanitarian Action Specialist, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders 

In 2010, the Philippines was the first Asian country to adopt a National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 – a critical step towards addressing the situation of women in armed conflict and recognizing women’s contributions to conflict transformation. The NAP on UNSCR 1325 reinforced the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act No. 9710), which was adopted in 2008 to enshrine the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Despite the adoption of these important national frameworks, genuine implementation has not yet been accomplished. 

Armed conflict and increased activity amongst violent extremist groups continue to disproportionately impact women, young women, and girls, particularly from religious or Lumad (indigenous) minority groups in the Philippines. Forced displacement, child marriage, sexual violence, trafficking, food and economic insecurity, limited access to health care and education, and recruitment and radicalization by armed groups are all realities experienced by women, young women, and girls in conflict and crisis-affected communities across the Philippines. 

The peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), ratified as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), addresses the gendered impacts of armed conflict and ensures women’s meaningful participation in post-conflict recovery and decision-making on peace and security. The recently adopted Bangsamoro Regional Action Plan (RAP) on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) furthers these objectives through a focus on leadership of women in local Peace and Order Councils and gender-responsive humanitarian emergency response for displaced women and girls. If implemented effectively, the BOL and RAP on WPS could transform gender inequalities and build inclusive, long-lasting peace in the Bangsamoro Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

Challenges to Implementation 

Disinformation, misinformation, and fake news have contributed to a lack of broad-based local ownership and support for the implementation of the BOL and a peaceful transition to the BARMM. Delays in the development of an electoral code, amongst other key frameworks in line with the BOL, have furthered distrust amongst the local population and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). In the meantime, clashes continue between violent extremist groups, including Abu Sayaff, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Philippine Armed Forces. Violence committed by extremist groups and clan feuds, compounded by fake news, threaten the peaceful transition to the BARMM and could lead to a return to insecurity and armed conflict. 

The peace process between the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Philippine government has deteriorated, following violent clashes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The conflict led to deliberate disruption and delays in the delivery of life-saving COVID-19 relief goods, leaving countless frontline women peacebuilders at risk. Misinformation disseminated by biased Filipino media agencies heavily contributed to false accusations and increased violence between the two warring parties. As a result, the ceasefires declared by the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF were short-lived, despite the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 crisis. The failure to uphold the ceasefires by the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government of the Philippines ultimately aggravated prospects of peace negotiations and increased the incidence of violent clashes between the two warring parties. 

The important role of journalists 

Journalism plays a critical role in countering misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. It can build broad-based support for sustainable and inclusive peacebuilding, promoting women’s meaningful participation and leadership in decision-making on peace and security. Mass media has the power to not only break the traditionally conservative stereotypes around gender and women portrayed as victims of conflict but also hold governments to account on issues of women, peace and security. Journalists in the Philippines have the power to share accurate information on the implementation of the BOL and generate support for women’s leadership in peacebuilding in the BARMM. They can also hold the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF accountable for the protection of women’s rights and human rights, in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the only agreement signed by the warring parties. 

To generate and sustain interest amongst journalists around gender-sensitive reporting on the ongoing peace processes in the Philippines, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Balay Mindanaw, with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), launched a national media competition on International Women’s Day in March 2020. The “Women, Peace, and Security Reporting Awards” was created to: 

  • Encourage journalists to  produce engaging stories to promote the implementation of the BOL;
  • Support the smooth transition to the BARMM;
  • Communicate the importance of inclusive and sustainable peace processes which address the root causes of conflict between the Government of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDF; and
  • Shift the dominant perception of women as victims to agents of change.

GNWP and Balay Mindanaw received  68 entries from 38 authors. Many of the entries discussed the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities affected by the transition to the BARMM or the ongoing peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF. They also highlighted the significant contributions of local women and youth peacebuilders in leading COVID-19 relief and recovery. 

On March 8, 2021, an online award ceremony was held to recognize the following winning submissions: 

Winning Submission for Photojournalism Category

Pandemic Worsens Situation of Young Mothers in Conflict Areas by Mark Saludes

A photo essay of women who are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. The essay’s subjects are also caught in the midst of an armed conflict and the underlying socio-economic, political, and cultural exclusion in Maida, Maguindanao province in the BARMM. The essay captures the gendered impacts of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing armed conflict. The story also highlights the efforts of some groups to include reproductive health products in COVID-19 relief packages in the absence of comprehensive healthcare. The author also artistically inserted photos of Lumad peoples in the province of Surigao Del Sur who were displaced in 2018 by the ongoing armed conflict between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA. 

Watch the author’s award acceptance video here: https://youtu.be/qZsqTFyMxGA

Winning Submission for Print Category

Rising from the Ruins, The Weavers of Marawi by Zea Correa-Capistrano

Correa-Capistrano recognizes the leadership and innovation of displaced Meranaw women following the 2018 Marawi Siege. Meranaw women revived their traditional weaving practices to address the economic and food insecurity they were experiencing. Traditional weaving has always been a part of Meranaw culture and tradition. These women transformed norms by leading the practice and selling their products. They were able to market their products and share their stories to consumers as far as the United States. Watch the author’s award acceptance video here: https://youtu.be/9hlosVlmMcU

Winning Submission for Online Category

Dolls for Peace Help Empower Women in Post-War Marawi by Antonio L. Colina IV

The story of a group of women who believe they are “warriors for peace”. They employ their skills to create iconic dolls that become symbolize women-led efforts to rebuild the war-torn city of Marawi. The women saw the selling of dolls as key to their empowerment and recovery. The dolls promote their culture and tradition of peace and remind consumers of Marawi City before it was destroyed by war and terrorism. Watch the author’s award acceptance video here: https://youtu.be/5lMEy8w0cPw

Winning Submission for Best Report on Peace in the Pandemic

Women Survivors from Marawi Siege Produce Facemasks for Livelihood During Covid-19 Outbreak by Divina Suson

This report highlights the leadership of local women in displacement camps in Marawi City in the COVID-19 response. As survivors of the 2018 Marawi Siege, local women harnessed their power to identify livelihood opportunities. Although their dressmaking businesses were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, local women quickly mobilized to produce face masks as an alternative source of income. Watch the author’s award acceptance video here: https://youtu.be/1iltp9w6kCs

Winning Submission for Best Report By A Woman/Youth Journalist 

Women Commanders Speak: “How do you suppose the battle raged on for days and weeks if there was no Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade to support the men fighting?” by Amalia Bandiola-Cabusao

This article brought to the fore the seldom-heard perspectives of former women combatants of the MILF’s armed wing. It draws attention to their efforts to support the peace negotiations and struggle for the right to self-determination. The article emphasizes the need for gender-responsive disengagement, disarmament, and rehabilitation. 

Watch the author’s award acceptance video here:

Part 1: https://youtu.be/wrJAAj6XMj8

Part 2: https://youtu.be/RouG0x_IrFw

GNWP’s Nikou Salamat recognized for peace activism, receives Kim Phúc Youth Peace Leadership Award

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is thrilled to announce that our very own Research Officer, Nikou Salamat, has received the Kim Phúc Youth Peace Leadership Award. Launched in 2014, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace’s (VOW) Peace Awards recognize outstanding contributions of Canadian women working towards a stronger, more peaceful world.

Nikou Salamat, who has been working with GNWP since April 2020, co-leads the COVID-19 and WPS Database and supports the implementation of women-led and youth-led peacebuilding initiatives in Central Africa, including most recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Nigeria.

GNWP extends its warmest congratulations to Nikou! We are proud to have Nikou as part of our team.

Learn more about Nikou’s journey and what inspires her activism:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, who is Nikou?

N: I am a young professional and passionate advocate for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS). As an intersectional feminist, my advocacy is based on the notion that transformation of intersecting systems of oppression is essential to achieving full enjoyment of human rights for all.

I have recently completed my Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa, and look forward to pursuing graduate studies. My research interests include the role of grassroots women’s organizations in building peace in conflict-affected and post-conflict contexts, as well as advancing women’s rights in post-conflict reconstruction. Finally, I have a love for languages – I speak English, French, Farsi (Persian), and I am currently learning Spanish!

What brought you to peace activism?

N: As a first-generation immigrant to Canada with my parents, I became acutely aware of the inequities, ongoing injustices and egregious human rights violations occurring around the world. In parallel, my awareness of the privileges I enjoyed, including the protection of my human rights, was also heightened. I view peace activism as not only a professional endeavor, but a deeply personal one too. My experiences led to my passion for peace activism, as I believe that without gender justice and the fulfillment of human rights for all, there can be no sustainable peace.

What are you most proud of?

N: I am most proud of the initiatives that I contributed to at GNWP, including the policy advocacy, peacebuilding programming and research projects we have accomplished in collaboration with our partners over the past year. Specifically, our COVID-19 and WPS Database fills a key evidence gap on women’s leadership at the grassroots level during COVID-19. Our work to document women-led responses in peacebuilding and humanitarian action has proven essential to advocating for gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 recovery. I am also proud to have worked alongside the Young Women Leaders for Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in mobilizing young women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding and women’s rights advocacy.

Who inspires you?

N: I am profoundly inspired by the activism of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders around the world. Countless women’s rights and feminist activists are currently facing backlash, persecution and imprisonment under inhumane conditions for their work. It is their tireless activism for social justice in the face of repression and threats which inspires my work. My parents are also one of the main sources of inspiration. Without their immense sacrifice and support, I would not have the opportunities that I do today. Lastly, I am incredibly inspired by my team members at GNWP and our collective commitment to the feminist principles that drive our work!

If you had to give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

N: I would say get as involved as you can and seek to learn from those that are leading on the issues you care about! Building solidarity across feminist and social justice movements means connecting with young people and organizations around the world, listening to voices that are silenced and expanding your perspectives beyond your comfort zone. Also, read as much as you can – knowledge is power, and translating that knowledge into action is even more powerful.

Media as an Ally in Peacebuilding, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

May 3, 2021

By Wevyn Muganda, GNWP’s Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow and Michaela Zelenanska, GNWP’s Peacebuilding Program Intern for Eastern Europe and South Caucasus

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) celebrates World Press Freedom Day by highlighting the importance of independent media in building peaceful, gender-equal, and inclusive societies. Journalists play a key role in spreading information about the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and in highlighting women’s roles as leaders, peacebuilders, and decision-makers. GNWP’s “Full-cycle Implementation” of WPS strategy incorporates the critical work of the media, taking a multidimensional approach across three main areas:

  1. Training of journalists and other media practitioners, to increase their understanding of their role in promoting the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the supporting WPS resolutions and encourage them to portray women in their diverse roles including as leaders, peacebuilders, and decision-makers;
  2. Development of Media and WPS strategies to guide stronger and more systematic collaboration between the media, women peacebuilders and national and local government actors; and
  3. Media and WPS (#MediaFor1325) competitions, to create incentives and recognize the gender-responsive coverage of issues related to peace and security.

The #MediaFor1325 competitions provide an incentive for journalists to integrate a gender lens into their reporting on peace and conflict issues, and raise awareness of the WPS agenda. As a result, they contribute to shifting the perception of women as passive victims to recognizing women as agents of peace. Since 2018, the GNWP in partnership with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) held six media competitions in Colombia, Georgia, Moldova, Kenya, the Philippines, and Ukraine.

This year, we commemorate World Press Freedom Day with a throwback to some of the winning materials.

The work of women peacebuilders in Colombia has been indispensable to reaching and signing the peace agreement between the government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and remains critical in monitoring its implementation. It is important that the invaluable contribution of women peacebuilders in Colombia is recognized and made visible to change the public narrative on women’s role in peace processes and in leadership. GNWP, in partnership with Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) and with support from Norad, trained journalists on the WPS agenda and the role the media plays to promote effective implementation. The training was followed by a national #MediaFor1325 competition organized in August 2020, in partnership with Pacifista – a media collective dedicated to promoting journalism rooted in peace and human rights principles. The competition had two categories: professional journalists and journalism students. Additionally, a special prize was awarded for work that provided an original angle on women’s leadership in peacebuilding. The winning podcast, by Lidha Beltrán Valero, highlights women’s experiences in challenging patriarchy, preventing violence and sustaining peace in local communities. Jeimmy Lorena Gutiérrez Turmequé, with her piece about Indigenous leaders from Xuacha, was awarded the students category and the special prize.

With support from ADA, GNWP and its Georgian partner, Women’s Information Center (WIC), organized an online training series for journalists. The training aimed to increase the awareness of Georgian journalists on their roles in supporting gender equality, women’s meaningful participation in the implementation of Georgia’s National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, and in promoting gender- and conflict-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The journalists expressed appreciation for the knowledge and skills they acquired and committed to being more gender-sensitive in conflict reporting in order to influence the public narrative on women’s roles in peace processes. The training was accompanied by a national #MediaFor1325 competition. The winning article by Nino Chibchiuri discusses the lives of women on the occupation line and how the pandemics negatively affected them. Other awarded articles feature women entrepreneurs and the struggles of peace activists in Abkhazia. “During the pandemic, rural women showed solidarity with each other and helped others as much as they could,” Chibchiuri stressed.

“Rural women during the pandemic showed solidarity with each other and helped others as much as they could.” -Nino Chibchiuri, 2020 winning journalist in Georgia

In Ukraine, GNWP and Democracy Development Center have conducted a series of training with journalists since 2017. These trainings have been instrumental in raising the journalists’ awareness of their important role in shaping public opinions on women’s leadership in peace processes. It has also become pivotal in integrating the media in the implementation of the WPS agenda. The 2020 media competition was organized in partnership with Ukraine’s State Radio and Television Broadcasting Commission. Dmytro Semenyuk’s winning entry focuses on breaking stereotypes and highlighting the active role women play in patrol policing to prevent violence. “Women have become indispensable in resolving conflicts,” Semenyuk expressed.  Olga Chernykova, the author of another winning article describes an inspiring life story of a woman journalist who had to flee her home city due to the violent conflict.

These powerful stories show that women around the world share similar struggles and continue to work for the advancement of women’s rights, peace, and justice in their communities. On this World Press Freedom Day, GNWP commits to continue to work with journalists in amplifying the voices of women peacebuilders across the world!