Category: Philippines

Category: Philippines

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

Launching the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security: In Search of Intersectionality and Localization

December 16, 2020 by Queenie Pearl V. Tomaro and Mallika Iyer

In 2014, the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace agreement to bring 40 years of armed conflict to an end and establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The peace agreement made history as the first in the world to have been signed by a woman chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel Ferrer. The recent adoption of a Regional Action Plan (RAP) on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) for the BARMM is yet another step towards achieving sustainable peace and gender equality in a region heavily impacted by armed conflict, violent extremism, rido (clan warfare), and natural disasters. The RAP is a tremendous success, not just for the Bangsamoro Transition Government but for the women and girls of the BARMM.

In a region considered to be a hotbed for armed conflict and violent extremism conducive to terrorism with a significant number of internally displaced persons, it is of utmost importance that women, young women, and girls, who are often disproportionately impacted, are protected. Equally important is the recognition that women and young peoples’ needs and experiences are unique as the impacts of recurring armed conflict are varied across age and gender differentiation. In order to ensure that conflict resolution strategies respond to their needs, women must meaningfully participate in decision-making at all levels on peace and security.

These recognized realities underscore the importance of the BARMM’s RAP on WPS, which is primarily crafted to ensure that “women and young people’s needs during emergencies are taken into consideration”. Mirroring the Philippine government’s National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the four pillars of the RAP are as follows: Protection and Prevention, Empowerment and Participation, Promotion and Mainstreaming, and lastly, Monitoring and Evaluation.

The RAP calls for an investment in women’s rights and sustainable, inclusive peacebuilding in partnership with women’s civil society and gender equality allies across the region. In line with the gender-sensitive provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the RAP commits to increase women’s meaningful participation in the transition to the BARMM and the implementation of the peace agreement. It also commits to mainstream WPS commitments into the Bangsamoro Development Plan.

Grassroots women peacebuilders are expected to lead and be included in local Peace and Order Councils in conflict-affected communities. It is now time to translate these commitments into action, and employing an intersectional lens is crucial. In particular, the RAP draws attention to the intersectionality between WPS and humanitarian action, a nexus that is garnering growing attention amongst the global policymaking community following the recommendations of the Grand Bargain. The RAP includes specific provisions on ensuring gender-sensitive humanitarian emergency response for displaced women and girls and direct humanitarian aid to local women’s rights organizations. With a little under 15,000 people displaced due to the armed conflict, these provisions could not be more in line with the urgent, intersecting needs of women, young women, and girls in the region.

To avoid the pitfalls of the first RAP of the now-defunct Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) adopted in 2017, the BARMM’s RAP emphasizes the need for localization. Localizing the RAP will entail integrating its provisions into Municipal Gender and Development (GAD) Codes and developing Provincial Action Plans (or Local Action Plans as they are more commonly known). To truly bridge commitments, priorities, and resources into efforts to build peace and promote gender equality in communities affected by conflict, the RAP must be localized and owned by key stakeholders. Unless reflected in local action plans and GAD codes, the RAP will simply become a check-the-box exercise.

For effective localization, the RAP outlines provisions to “ensure and sustain awareness, understanding, and appreciation of duty-bearers on WPS”. Specifically, the RAP commits to capacitate local actors by providing awareness-raising training on WPS and gender-responsive budgeting in communities. This is vital to cultivate ownership and support for the effective implementation of the WPS resolutions amongst key stakeholders including BARMM agencies, its local governments, traditional, and religious structures (with due consideration to varying rigidity of gender norms across the region). For example, the RAP requires the orientation of traditional local mechanisms such as the Sultanates and Council of Elders on WPS and women’s rights. A lack of understanding of the gendered impacts of armed conflict will perpetuate structural gender inequalities and women’s exclusion from political decision-making.

Without adequate, dedicated, reliable, and sustainable funding, an effective, fully implemented, and localized RAP is unlikely. As highlighted by a study conducted by Inclusive Security, the potential challenges for localization  are the  lack of capacity, knowledge, and financial resources. Hence, gender-responsive budgeting for the RAP and corresponding Provincial Action Plans is crucial. It remains to be seen how budgets for GAD Codes will be utilized to implement provisions of the RAP.

While the RAP makes strides in addressing key challenges to gender equality and sustainable peace in the BARMM, it fails to refer to disarmament and non-proliferation. This omission follows a similar trend of 70% NAPs on UNSCR 1325 across the world which lack language on disarmament. As an agenda for the prevention of conflict, the Women, Peace, and Security resolutions cannot be implemented in isolation to UNSCR 2117 on Small Arms and Light Weapons. These two resolutions are interlinked over their concern with the gendered impacts of violence caused by small arms. However, policy forums on disarmament remain to be men-dominated, with only 30% participation of women. In the Philippines, women must meaningfully participate in disarmament, decommissioning, demobilization, and reintegration processes. The specific needs of former women combatants must also be prioritized. Disarmament is an important element of sustainable peace. Since peace is only sustainable if women are involved, disarmament and WPS should not be viewed in separate lenses. Hence, effective implementation of the RAP will require the recognition of women as equal partners in a gender-responsive disarmament processes.

Regarding missing elements in the RAP, is the important acknowledgement that climate change and armed conflict are closely interlinked. The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, including floods and typhoons, which exacerbate armed conflict, forced displacement, and insecurity for women and girls. Climate change has gendered impacts which cannot be analyzed in isolation from women’s experiences in conflict. The intersections of climate change and armed conflict result in compounding, multi-dimensional challenges for the achievement of gender equality and sustainable peace. By employing an intersectional approach to implementation of the RAP, the BARMM will be able to better respond to the needs of women, young women, and girls in the region.

In conclusion, it is important to reflect on the question: “For whom is the RAP on WPS?”. If it truly is for the women, young women, and girls in the BARMM, then they must lead implementation of the RAP in partnership with the government, traditional and religious leaders, and gender equality allies. Localization efforts must be taken seriously, resulting in corresponding Provincial Action Plans as well as greater awareness and ownership amongst key stakeholders. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes, which are vital to sustainable peace in the BARMM, must meaningfully engage women and respond to their specific needs. Additionally, the gendered impacts of climate change as they intersect with and fuel armed conflict should be adequately addressed. Employing an intersectional, localized approach to implementation of the RAP will lead to more comprehensive efforts to improve all aspects of women, young women, and girls’ lives in conflict affected communities in the BARMM.

Preserving Peace in the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders and Gender Equality Allies Mobilize in the Philippines

December 14, 2020 by Mallika Iyer and Heela Yoon

“We want peace! We’re ready to work for it!” – declared members of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) in the Philippines during an online capacity-building training organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from Channel Foundation in August 2020. YWL in the Philippines is a network of young women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) youth, and gender equality allies. Since its establishment in February 2018, the network has mobilized to build and sustain peace in the Philippines, and prevent further outbreaks of conflict in their communities. The virtual training was organized to support their work towards sustainable and inclusive peace, by enhancing their knowledge and capacities on the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) agenda, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). Between August 26-28, the youth leaders analyzed challenges and opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions in the Philippines.

YWL members believe that the implementation of these resolutions is necessary to ensure that the hard-won peace is not lost. On March 27th, 2014, people across the country rejoiced as the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a historic peace agreement, which brought 40 years of armed conflict to an end. The Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro is celebrated internationally for its gender-sensitive provisions and inclusive drafting process spearheaded by the world’s first woman chief negotiator. One of the key provisions of the peace agreement was the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Six years after the signing of the agreement, the region is gradually transitioning from rebellion to governance. The provisions of the peace agreement were enshrined into the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and ratified in February 2019 through plebiscites, which institutionalized the establishment of the BARMM. Additionally, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) approved a transition plan and passed codes creating Bangsamoro Commissions on Youth, Women, and Human Rights. The parliament, for which an administrative code is being deliberated, is scheduled to begin regular sessions in 2022. To ensure a peaceful transition to the BARMM, it is critical to protect these achievements as well as build local ownership and support for the effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant delays in the development of government structures and processes, including the electoral code for the region, which is crucial for the effective implementation of the peace agreement. While Members of Parliament struggled to meet over Zoom, violent extremist groups wasted no time in sowing insecurity. In April, a clash between the Abu Sayaff Group, a well-known violent extremist group that operates in the BARMM, and the Armed Forces of the Patikul, Sulu resulted in the death of 11 soldiers. Shortly after, two soldiers were reportedly killed in an attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) at a COVID-19 lockdown checkpoint. Violence perpetrated by extremist groups and clan feuds jeopardizes the building of peaceful institutions in the BARMM and the implementation of the peace agreement.  

I have heard kids say that they want to join Abu Sayaff when they grow up. We need to counter violent narratives promoted by extremist groups. Instead, we need to build support for peace in the BARMM,” a young woman from Sulu shared. Violent extremist groups have exploited the limited collective understanding of the BOL, and have utilized the resulting misinformation and disinformation to radicalize and recruit in conflict-affected areas. In response, during the virtual training organized by GNWP, the young women leaders and gender equality allies designed community peacebuilding dialogues and social media campaigns, which will raise awareness and build ownership of the BOL, particularly including its gender-responsive provisions. Keynote speakers, Ana Tarhata Basman and Maisara Damdamun-Latiph, who are both Members of Parliament of the BTA, highlighted the critical importance of the participation of young women in political decision-making to ensure a sustainable and inclusive transition to peaceful governance. They highlighted that the BTA currently does not have enough women members to meet the required 30% participation quota stipulated under the BOL. In preparation for the upcoming elections in the BARMM in 2022, YWL members committed to leading advocacy campaigns to encourage and inspire their peers to join political parties and work for the BTA. “We don’t have a lot of time before 2022. We all need to work together to actualize this peaceful transition. There is too much at stake if we fail,” emphasized Ana Tarhata Basman.

As part of the August 2020 training, the YWL members also enhanced their capacities to advocate for a human-rights based peace process between the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Philippine government. The conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government has devastated rural areas across the country and has resulted in large-scale internal displacement, loss of lives, damage to property, and widespread insecurity. It has also led to the implementation of martial law and multiple grave human rights violations. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated insecurity experienced by communities as a result of the conflict. Although the warring parties were quick to declare ceasefires in March 2020, the failure to uphold them ultimately worsened prospects of peace negotiations, increased the incidence of violent clashes, and disrupted the delivery of essential relief goods to women and youth peacebuilders on the frontlines of the pandemic.

We need to dispel the perception that peacebuilding and negotiations aren’t going anywhere. Militarized responses to the pandemic and armed conflict shouldn’t be the only action the government takes. We need to spread hope, advocate for change, and meet the immediate needs of vulnerable groups,” Bianca Pabotoy, a young woman from Buhol, stressed. During the online training, the young women leaders and gender equality allies designed initiatives to empower and increase opportunities for internally displaced and indigenous young women in conflict-affected communities to protect their rights and participate in peacebuilding. The YWL members in the Philippines emphasized “Peace isn’t just for Mindanao!” Implementing an inclusive peace will help build a better, more equitable future for all Filipinos. The young peacebuilders are working steadily towards building a national movement for sustainable peace and gender equality.

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

July 17, 2020 by Katrina Leclerc

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

On July 14, 2020, the United Nations Security Council adopted its third resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS), co-sponsored by France and the Dominican Republic. Resolution 2535 (2020) aims to accelerate and strengthen the implementation of the YPS resolutions by:

  • institutionalizing the agenda within the UN system and establishing a 2-year reporting mechanism;
  • calling for system-wide protection of youth peacebuilders and activists;
  • emphasizing the urgency of the meaningful participation of youth peacebuilders in decision-making on humanitarian response; and
  • recognizing the synergies between the anniversaries of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (women, peace and security), the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Some of the key strengths of UNSCR 2535 build on the persistent work and advocacy of civil society groups, including the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). As we welcome the new resolution, we look forward to their effective implementation!

Intersectionality

A highlight of the resolution is that it emphasizes the intersectionality of the YPS agenda and recognizes that youth are not a uniform group, calling for “protection of all youth, particularly young women, refugees and internally displaced youth in armed conflict and post-conflict and their participation in peace processes.” GNWP has been advocating for, and implementing, intersectional approaches to peace and security for over a decade. We believe that to build sustainable peace, it is necessary to address cumulative barriers that different people and groups face based on their gender, sex, race, (dis)ability, social and economic status, and other factors.

Removing barriers to participation

In practice, intersectionality means recognizing and removing barriers to participation in peacebuilding processes – including conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. Such barriers are outlined throughout UNSCR 2535, which calls for comprehensive approaches to peacebuilding and sustaining peace by addressing root causes to conflict.

This is particularly important because structural barriers still limit the participation and capacity of youth, particularly young women. GNWP’s Young Women Leaders (YWL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experience first-hand the “insufficient investment in facilitating inclusion.” For example, in the province of North Kivu, young women have created and run micro-businesses for two and a half years providing them with small revenues to sustain their field work and modest personal expenses. Despite the low income of their micro-businesses, and the fact that they invest all profits into initiatives that benefit their communities, local authorities have been imposing seemingly arbitrary ‘taxes’ on the young women – without documentation or justification. This has hindered their capacity for growth and economic development as many have found that these ‘taxes’ were not proportionally adjusted to their small revenue. It has also impeded their ability to reinvest their small profits to support their peacebuilding initiatives.

The recognition by UNSCR 2535 of the complex and multi-layered barriers to youth participation is important to ensure unjust and burdensome practices, imposed to young people and particularly to young women, are eliminated. Supportive systems must be prioritized to ensure the success of local youth initiatives who contribute to the overall progress and good of societies.

Young people and preventing violent extremism

The resolution also recognizes the role of young people in counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE). GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace are an example of youth leadership on PVE. In Indonesia, YWL are using education and advocacy to tackle radicalization of young women. In the provinces of Poso and Lamongan, where the YWL operate, they work to prevent and counter violent extremism by addressing the root causes within a human security framework.

Call for WPS and YPS synergies

The resolution calls on Member States to recognize and promote synergies between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS); and Youth, Peace and Security agendas – including the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (women, peace and security) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Civil society, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, have long called for greater synergies between WPS and YPS agendas as many of the barriers and challenges faced by women and youth are part of the same exclusionary cultures. The discrimination, marginalization and violence girls and young women experience often continue to adulthood, unless enabling conditions are created for their empowerment. On the other hand, girls and young women who have strong support from family, school and other social institutions are better equipped to realize their full potentials as adults.

GNWP has taken this call for stronger synergies between WPS and YPS in the processes around the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) through its advocacy for an Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. This advocacy was recognized by the Core Group of the GEF with the development of the Compact Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action within the Beijing+25 review process. While the name of the Compact does not include YPS, the inclusion of young women in decision-making has been highlighted in the Compact’s concept note.

Role of youth in humanitarian response

The resolution recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people as well as the role they take in responding to this health crisis. It calls on policy-makers and stakeholders to guarantee meaningful youth engagement in humanitarian planning and response as essential to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance.

Young people have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, providing lifesaving support in local communities gravely affected and vulnerable to the health crisis. For example, GNWP’s Young Women Leaders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and South Sudan have been providing relief support and information dissemination to promote safe precautionary measures and counter ‘fake news’ within social media. In the Philippines, YWL have distributed ‘dignity kits’ to local communities to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable individuals and families who have been further isolated by the pandemic.

Protection of young activists and support to survivors

Historically, the resolution recognizes the need to protect the civic space of youth peacebuilders and activists – including the important need for explicit protections of human rights defenders. It also calls on Member States to provide “access to quality education, socio-economic support and skills development such as vocational training, to resume social and economic life” to survivors of armed conflict and survivors of sexual violence.

The experience of the Young Women Leaders in DRC has emphasized both the importance of multi-faceted and survivor-centered response to sexual violence, as well as the key roles of youth peacebuilders in addressing impacts of conflict. The young women peacebuilders are supporting survivors of sexual violence by providing psychological and moral support to survivors. Through awareness-raising and collaboration with local partners on the ground they have begun to shift the narrative from victim to survivor, important progress for the stigmatization and agency of young women. However, speaking out about this sensitive issue can put them at risk – therefore, it is essential to ensure adequate protections for young women activists.

Implementation and accountability mechanism

The UNSCR 2535 is also the most action-oriented of the YPS resolutions. It includes specific encouragement to Member States to develop and implement roadmaps on youth, peace and security – with dedicated and sufficient resources. These resources should be intersectional and realistic. This echoes GNWP’s long-standing advocacy for adequate resources to support peacebuilding led by women, including young women. Far too often, roadmaps and action plans are developed without dedicated budgets, which limits the implementation of the agenda and meaningful participation of young people in sustaining peace. Furthermore, the resolution encourages dedicated funding for youth-led and youth-focused organizations, and emphasizes the institutionalization of the YPS agenda within the UN. This will eliminate additional barriers faced by young people as they are often in precarious work and disadvantaged economically. Young people are expected to provide their skills and experiences as volunteers, which further increases the economic divide and forces many to remain or to live in poverty.

Young people have a role to play in sustaining peace and economic well-being of societies. Thus, it is crucial that they be included in all aspects of design, implementation, and monitoring of economic-focused opportunities and initiatives; especially, now within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic which has created additional disparities and burdens in the state of the world’s economy. The adoption of UNSCR 2535 is an important step towards guaranteeing that. Now – on to the implementation!


GNWP is having ongoing conversations with Young Women Leaders around the world on the relevance of UNSCR 2535 and other YPS resolutions. This is their views:

“UNSCR2535 is relevant both in our communities and globally because it reinforces the importance of youth’s meaningful participation in creating a just and humane society. Given that our country has passed the Anti-Terrorism Law recently, this resolution can also be a protective mechanism for youth activists engaged in different advocacies such as peacebuilding, protecting human rights and ensuring due process.” – Sophia Dianne Garcia, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As a worker in the local government unit, I think we need to engage the youth throughout this peacebuilding process. Engaging the youth means recognizing us, as one of the political actors that can influence decisions. And those decisions will affect us eventually. We don’t want to be ignored. And at worst, be wasted. Participation, hence is empowerment. And that’s important.” – Cynth Zephanee Nakila Nietes, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As UNSCR 2535 (2020) does not only recognize the specific situation of young people, but also leverages their role and potential for preventing conflicts, building peaceful and inclusive societies and effectively addressing humanitarian needs. That can be attained by strengthening the role of young peacebuilders, especially women, engaging youth in humanitarian response, inviting youth organizations to brief the Council, and considering the specific situation of youth in the organ’s deliberations and actions that all are needed at this age in everyone’s community.” – Shazia Ahmadi, Young Woman Leader in Afghanistan

“In my opinion, this is very relevant. Because as a member of the younger generation, especially in our region, we want to be able to participate with the guarantee of protection. So, with that, we can also be taken into account in efforts to maintain peace itself even in making decisions and other matters relating to peace and humanity.” – Jeba, Young Woman Leader in Indonesia

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

April 23, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Katrina Leclerc

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Agnieszka Fal Dutra-Santos

“Afghan women have been fighting for their right to be meaningfully included in the peace process with the Taliban throughout the past 20 years. Today, we are afraid that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this progress will be lost, and provisions on women rights will be removed from the peace agreement.” This concern, shared by Sadaf Tahib, the Communication Associate of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association (AWWDA), was echoed by many of over 50 youth peacebuilders from 11 countries, who came together in an online meeting to share their experiences of preventing conflict and violent extremism, building peace, and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

The meeting was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, on April 15, 2020. It was the first-time members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan, came together. They were joined by women and youth leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Ukraine. By discussing the peace and security problems and the solutions to them amidst the pandemic and despite network connectivity issues, the women and youth peacebuilders sent a powerful message: COVID-19 will not stop us!

The event was also an opportunity to launch the Toolkit and Film for Young Women and Girls on Literacy, Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Media, and Theater. The toolkit and film are evidence-based, context-specific resources for elevating the voices and work of young women in preventing conflict and violent extremism drawn from GNWP’s work. They were developed based on the experiences of young women peacebuilders in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and good practices drawn from GNWP’s work around the world.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows including the aggravated levels of personal anxiety and stress, the women and peacebuilders underscored the need to hold regular discussions and continue supporting each other. Members of the YWL shared their frontline initiatives to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and youth peacebuilders. This is showcased in the new podcast ‘GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security’: Episode 25 on the Young Women Leaders Global Dialogue.

Young women’s frontline leadership

Speaking from Bangladesh, Young Women Leaders Machen Hia and Mathenu Rakhine, shared that they joined the YWL program to “make sure that there is peace and gender equality in [their] community in Cox’s Bazar.” They emphasized that there is still a lot of challenges, and highlighted their contributions to improving the gender sensitivity of humanitarian emergency response to the influx of 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They also shared their experience pre-COVID of conducting gender-sensitive, age-appropriate fundamental literacy and numeracy classes to Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Young Women Leaders are workingto prevent, support and counter increased sexualized violence during the pandemic. During the meeting, Emilie Katondolo and Nicole Musimbi, shared that this work includes using media and technology to dismantle and challenge narratives of ‘victims’ to ‘survivors’ of sexual violence, and ensuring accurate and updated information is provided to women and youth across the communities of Eastern DRC. “Through our program, we try to provide women with opportunities to make income, so that they can improve their financial situation and change their life,” said Nicole.

In Indonesia, Young Women Leaders for Peace, conduct community-level advocacy on women’s rights; gender equality; youth, peace and security (YPS); and human security. Prior to COVID-19, young women have held advocacy meetings in their communities and have developed strong relationships with district-level leaders. Nur Aisyah Maullidah, Ilmiyah Maslahatul and Ririn Anggraeni, shared that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the YWL Indonesia have held online English classes to continue their capacity-building amidst the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Young Women Leaders are also at the forefront of COVID-19 response. Sophia Garcia and Lynrose Genon, presented that young women are distributing face masks, disinfectants, and ‘dignity kits’ to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met. These kits are prepared by YWL members and distributed to internally displaced women and youth in Sagonsongan Transitional Temporary Shelter in Marawi, a city ravaged by armed conflict between extremist groups and the Philippine Armed Forces.

Speaking from South Sudan, Elizabeth Biniya, a member ofYoung Women Leaders, and Nyuon Susan Sebit, former Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at GNWP, discussed their efforts in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. The South Sudanese young women leaders are using community radio to raise awareness of domestic violence and the available support for those affected. They also disseminate information on preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. Additionally, the South Sudanese Young Women Leaders organize theater performances in Torit, South Sudan to raise awareness on women’s rights, gender equality, and peace and security among local populations.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is important to recognize and promote the synergies between the women and peace and security (WPS) and youth and peace and security (YPS) agendas and how they are linked to humanitarian emergencies. This is highlighted during this global COVID-19 pandemic as we see young women peacebuilders who step up and become first responders in their local communities. In doing so, they not only mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis but they also secure the gains of Afghan women and all other women and youth peacebuilders who have been demanding to meaningfully participate in peace processes and all levels of decision-making.

Want to support young women leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic? Share and donate here.

GNWP is grateful for the support of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and the collaboration of the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta – Bangladesh for the production of the Toolkit and Film.

Please see also other articles produced by the GNWP on COVID-19 and the women and peace and security, and youth and peace and security agendas: