YOUth are Part of the Narrative! Young women and LGBT youth leaders in the Philippines mobilize to ensure youth voices in the elections, charter change and the Bangsamoro Organic Law

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YOUth are Part of the Narrative! Young women and LGBT youth leaders in the Philippines mobilize to ensure youth voices in the elections, charter change and the Bangsamoro Organic Law

April 1, 2019 by Mallika Iyer, Lynrose Genon, and Cynthe Zephanee Nietes
 
The Philippines is at a critical juncture with major political events unfolding in 2019 such as national elections, impending constitutional change, and the plebiscites on Bangsamoro Organic Law. The upcoming national midterm elections serve as an opportunity for emerging political actors to change the political narrative in the climate leading up to the general election in 2020. These elections are seen as one of the most important avenues to bring back democracy in a country that has suffered from the disregard for human rights laws. Although according to an International Alert Survey, young people (in the category of 18-35 years) comprise of 57% of eligible voters in the Philippines, there is very low turnout in this category voters. As they hold the potential to change the political future of the country, young voters must be educated on the importance of informed voting and holding government officials accountable amidst reports of voter fraud, fake news, vote buying.
 
To enhance the capacities of young women to be key influencers of a stronger youth movement for progressive social transformation, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with the support of its local implementation partner, the Center for Peace Education (CPE) at Miriam College, hosted a two-day Training of Trainors on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 1325) and the supporting Women, Peace, and Security Agenda on March 7 th and 8th, 2019 in Manila. The training brought together young women who are IDPs (internally displaced persons) from Marawi, religious minorities, lumad (indigenous), LGBTQIA+, and representatives from across Mindanao, Luzon, and Visayas along with male allies. These young women consolidated their knowledge on the importance of electoral education, Bangsamoro Organic Law (which centers around the implementation of the peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), and the consequences of constitutional change. Over the course of this year, these YW+PL members will conduct community-focused youth discussions in their localities to campaign for a more gender-equal, peaceful society at a grassroots level in a culturally-sensitive, age-appropriate manner. Inspired by the advice shared by Ana Tarhata Basman, a Youth Representative from the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the YW+PL members agreed to overcome barriers to youth participation by engaging – but not waiting – for government. 
 
GNWP is proud to showcase the reflections of two YW+PL members on the value the recently conducted Training of Trainers brought to their lives as young women leaders during the politically turbulent environment in the Philippines. Influential in their respective local communities, these young women will initiate community-focused youth discussions and campaigns to ensure that youth are part of the narrative of sustainable peace.
 
GNWP and the YW+PL’s work in the Philippines is supported by Channel Foundation. 
 
Reflection from Lynrose Genon (YW+PL Member): YOUth are Part of the Narrative
 
Assistant Lecturer, Mindanao State University
 
“The YW+PL Training encourages us, young women, to participate in the political process early on. We gain new skills when we become politically engaged and we get to own our role in the process. It also becomes a platform where we learn more about ourselves—who we are, and what we value in life. We gained a sense of clarity on how crucial our role is. And also, the training capacitated us to speak up, make a choice, and take part in the election process to protect our collective interests. It inspired us to be hope-oholic! It encouraged us to choose hope in the face of every reason to give in to cynicism and despair. The world that we live in can be tough. It can be unjust, but the good news is we are capable of doing something about it. It may be challenging to hang on to our vision of possibilities for others, and ourselves but we will do what we can, and we have a strong network of young women that will help us.
 
At the end of the training, I realized that our nation needs an endless repair, but it is comforting to know that you are not alone in taking the challenge to help fix it, and we still have time to do it together.”
 
Reflection from Cynthe Zephanee Nietes (YWPL Member): Stories of Why and Why Not
 
Local Youth Council, Chairperson of Barangay Libertad, Butuan, Agusan del Norte
 
“After listening to their stories, I came to my senses that there are so many unwritten and untold stories that will change your perception about life, about politics, about men you thought are the savior and about leaders you patronize with all your soul. Definitely, there’s no peace yet. And nobody is brave enough to stand for peace, – those nobodies are actually the somebodies with power and authority. But where’s that?
 
It made me sad. When victims, when women, when children are becoming less relevant compared to guns and bombs. When education, books and school building are becoming the enemy. And the enemy is becoming the new ideology, the new purpose and the new cause. And that makes me ask myself again, what my purpose, my battle and my cause is.”