Category: Philippines

Category: Philippines

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:

Charting a Feminist Present and Future: Young Women for Peace and Leadership Program Recognized by the United Nations Secretary-General in Report to Security Council on UNSCR 2250

From DRC to Indonesia, from Bangladesh to South Sudan, young women defy gender and age stereotypes and act as leaders, peacebuilders and agents of change in their communities. They are first responders in humanitarian crises, prevent recruitment by violent groups by building a culture of peace, and set up small businesses to increase their financial independence and support their families. In the absence of formal mechanisms and opportunities to meaningfully participate in peace processes and social, political and economic life, young women have forged their own avenues to lead peacebuilding efforts and movements for progressive social transformation.

When Warring Parties Abandon Peace Negotiations: Lessons from Peacebuilding Efforts Led by Local Women in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Philippines

September 19, 2019 by Mallika Iyer
Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza
“What do you do when the warring parties have left the negotiating table?” was the question on every participant’s mind during a capacity building workshop and writeshop conducted by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the Center for Peace Education at Miriam College and Balay Mindanaw, between August 5th and 9th, 2019 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
In 2018, the Philippine government announced the termination of its negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), after repeated failed attempts to come to an agreement over the past 33 years. The armed conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government of the Philippines has spanned over five decades, devastating rural regions across the country and resulting in large numbers of internally displaced persons, loss of lives, damage to property, widespread insecurity, martial law declared by Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the widespread violation of human rights.
Prior to the announcement of the termination of peace negotiations with CPP-NPA-NDF, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 70, which calls for “localized peace talks” between local government units and the local command structures of the CPP-NPA-NDF.”[1] This is now the government’s primary approach to eradicate insurgency beginning in local communities.
peace worker based in Mindanao says Executive Order 70 is a one-sided attempt at a peace process led by the government with very limited—if any—support and ownership from the CPP-NPA-NDF, which still calls for the resumption of official peace negotiations. The CPP-NPA-NDF leadership has vocalized misgivings and opposition to Executive Order 70, describing it as a “cynical ploy by the Duterte administration to divide, conquer, and delegitimize”[2] and a “worn-out psywar tactic to project victory to conceal the continuing failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suppress the people’s resistance and stem the steady growth of the NPA.”[3] With the warring parties at odds over the approach and methodology which the peace process should adopt, the armed conflict continues with bleak prospects for ceasefire.
Local people should co-lead efforts in addressing the root causes of conflict 
The capacity building workshop and writeshop (writing workshop) organized by GNWP aimed to increase collective understanding and ownership amongst local populations in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur, of the concrete actions necessary to address the root causes of the conflict and contribute to the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace. Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur are home to large populations of Lumad (indigenous) people who are experiencing ongoing violence and insecurity as a result of the protracted conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government. The frequent skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDF have displaced over 3500 people in Lianga, Surigao del Sur since 2015.
The Lumad people’s education, properties, and security have been endangered because of violent confrontation between the CPP-NDF-NPA and the Philippine Army. Strong, organized groups of local women, Lumad, LGBTQIA+, youth, and other marginalized and vulnerable groups are essential in changing the militaristic narrative in which the armed conflict and peace process has been framed.
The capacity building workshop focused on analyzing the root causes of the conflict and designing initiatives to address them and bolster conflict resilience efforts in barangays (local communities). The participants stressed the importance of meeting the needs of women IDPs (internally displaced persons) through the establishment of women-friendly-spaces in evacuation centers and economic empowerment programs.
The writeshop (writing workshop) empowered local women in civil society, government, and the security sector to develop and advocate for gender-sensitive and inclusive local legislation and policies that support sustainable peace process at all levels. Provisions from the National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on WomenPeace, and Security, and the Magna Carta of Women were integrated into Barangay Development Plans, the Municipal Executive Legislative Agenda, and Local and Municipal Gender and Development Codes. Furthermore, ordinances and resolutions advocating for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the only agreement signed by the warring parties, were also drafted.
Local women from Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur will lead advocacy campaigns to ensure that these draft ordinances and resolutions are officially adopted and effectively implemented.
The capacity building workshop and writeshop in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao are part of a four-year project supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation aimed at building sustainable peace in the Philippines. A key component of this project is the enhancement of capacities of local women and other historically marginalized groups to meaningfully participate in the ongoing peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and local implementation of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

From rebellion to governance: The establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and local women’s participation in it

From rebellion to governance: The establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and local women’s participation in it

August 27, 2019 by Mallika Iyer

Edited by Mavic Cabrera Balleza

After four decades of armed conflict, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines signed a peace agreement that was later on enshrined into the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). In January and February 2019, the BOL was ratified through plebiscites which established the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and signaled the transition from rebellion to governance. The BOL contains provisions that guarantee the meaningful participation of women and other historically marginalized groups such as lumad (indigenous peoples) and youth in the Bangsamoro Cabinet. Building on this provision, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) facilitated workshops in North Cotabato, Mindanao on July 29 to August 01, 2019 to enhance the capacities of local women and other marginalized groups to meaningfully participate in the implementation of the BOL.

In partnership with the Center for Peace Education at Miriam College and Balay Mindanaw Foundation, GNWP organized the workshops in order to increase collective understanding and ownership of the BARMM and the concrete actions and policies necessary for the peaceful transition amongst local women’s rights groups, local government leaders, youth organizations, and indigenous leaders.  The capacity-building workshop highlighted the various roles played by municipal and barangay (village) level government units, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), local police and armed forces, civil society, and media in the effective implementation of the BOL.

The participants consisted of representatives from the key stakeholders of the peace process including the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Joint Normalization Committee, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bangsamoro Women’s Auxiliary Brigade, municipal and local government, civil society, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. Through many discussions, the participants reached a consensus on one of the primary challenges and obstacles to the peaceful transition to the BARMM: the limited collective understanding of the inclusive and gender-sensitive provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

While there is general support for the peace process, the participants of the workshop from Aleosan, North Cotabato voiced concerns and uncertainty on how the transition of the BARMM will unfold and impact their daily lives including the Internal Revenue Allotments—the financial subsidy that local governments receive from the national government; the decommissioning of ex-combatants, and the applicability of Sharia law. Due to lack of information dissemination and awareness-raising efforts, there is a high prevalence of misinformation and disinformation on the BOL. This results in distrust, fear, uncertainty, and ultimately, limited support for its implementation.

The local leaders also participated in a writeshop (writing workshop) to draft gender-sensitive and inclusive local legislation and policies that support the implementation of the BOL in Aleosan, North Cotabato. Provisions from the National Action Plan (NAP) on the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the Magna Carta of women were integrated into existing local legislation such as the Municipal Gender and Development Code and Local Development Plan to better respond to the impact of the armed conflict on local women and other marginalized groups. Ordinances to support the NAP on UNSCR 1325 and the implementation of the BOL by BARMM and non-BARMM barangays (villages) were drafted too. The participants also drafted ordinances establishing an economic empowerment program and a technical working group to address the needs of former women combatants and survivors of gender-based violence.

The leadership of local women in Aleosan, North Cotabato, as champions of peace is essential to transform the narrative of armed conflict into peaceful and effective governance. Strong local ownership of and active participation in the implementation of the BOL will bolster and support a peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

The capacity-building workshop and writeshop in Aleosan, North Cotabato, Mindanao are part of a four-year project supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation aimed at building sustainable peace in the Philippines. A key component of this project is the enhancement of capacities of local women and other historically marginalized groups to meaningfully participate in the ongoing peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and local implementation of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Young Women Lead Non-Partisan Electoral Education Efforts in the Philippines

Young Women Lead Non-Partisan Electoral Education Efforts in the Philippines

August 20, 2019 by Anne Campbell and Beatriz Ciordia

“Youth don’t have to be politicians to be involved in the election process.” With these words, Asmin A. Monib, a member of the Young Women+ for Peace and Leadership (YWPL) in the Philippines, emphasized the importance of involving new generations in the 2019 midterm elections. In the Philippines, youth represent 57% of total eligible voters, which provides them with the power to create substantial change within Filipino society through the election process.

Since the election of President Duterte in 2016, the Philippines has seen a drastic change in its political culture. President Duterte has implemented inhumane policies that have led to a “war on drugs” that has killed more than 30,000. The national midterm elections held on May 13, 2019, served as a key moment for the nation to limit the president’s ability to implement constitutional changes to lower the age of trials for eligibility as adults to 12 years old, legalize the death penalty, and potentially alter the term length for elected positions. The international community has taken a stance against President Duterte’s actions, and the country is currently under a preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court.

The midterm elections presented an opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns regarding the government’s severe human rights violations, their transition away from democracy, and the threatening of gender equality. In response, the YWPL developed programing to increase youth involvement in the elections, which is often hampered by the inaccessibility of information. In response, these young women identified a gap in public awareness and access to campaign materials; and facilitated non-partisan electoral education for over 500 young local voters ahead of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscites, which recognized the autonomy the only Muslim-majority region in the Philippines, and the national midterm election.

There is no question that youth voting rates are low; however, Queenie Pearl V. Tomaro, a YWPL member, reiterated that the events highlighted “youth yearn to yield a power of their own.” Some participants, during YWPL-hosted events, linked the human rights issues affecting Filipino youth with how the upcoming election would impact their priorities and rights. The community-focused programming supported conversations that allowed youth to internalize why voting is important to them, and why their individual rights matter. The YWPL created safe and inclusive spaces, in which youth could explore the relationship between political involvement, individual rights and gender equality.

In April 2019, the YWPL facilitated “Will Youth Say Yes?: A Youth Voter’s Education Forum for the Midterm Elections,” which reached 400 youth voters. This forum emphasized that elections hold governments accountable for their international obligations. Those who attended the events also agreed that youth can drastically change the political culture of the Philippines through casting their vote.

Bianca Pabotoy, a YWPL, assured that youth have the power to “demand issue-based campaigns, result-oriented discussion and accountable commitments in all succeeding elections.” Despite the results of the 2019 national midterm elections, the YWPL members are continuing their advocacy to hold elected officials accountable on their obligations under international laws on Women, Peace, and Security; Youth, Peace, and Security; and human rights.

GNWP thanks Channel Foundation for its support to the YWPL in the Philippines.