The following Peace Story was written in October, 2015, by Jasmin Nario-Galace, president of Pax Christi Philippines, executive director of the Center for Peace Education, national coordinator for Women Engaged in Action on 1325, and professor at Miriam College, Philippines.
The Center for Peace Education, Secretariat of Pax Christi-Pilipinas and Women Engaged in Action on 1325 worked to ensure that language on women’s human rights, particularly the right to meaningful participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, were integrated into the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a law that will guide the envisioned Bangsamoro government.
The war in Mindanao, which lasted approximately 45 years, claimed roughly 150,000 lives and displaced millions. In March 2014, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signaling the end of the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao. The next step in the peace process was to draft a BBL which would be the legal basis of the establishment of the Bangsamoro. The BBL is supposed to lay down the structure of the Bangsamoro government.
With support from Australian Aid, the European Union and the United Kingdom, more than 3,000 women from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were consulted on what they wanted incorporated in the BBL. The women — Moro, indigenous and Christian — normally in the margins, spoke up during these consultations.
What did the women want? The women we consulted wanted to be represented in all decision-making bodies of the Bangsamoro government. They wanted the future Bangsamoro government to promote their economic, social and cultural rights including their right to health and education. They wanted a program in the police force that will address gender-based violence and for the Bangsamoro police to prioritize the recruitment and training of women who will serve in women’s desks. The women wanted the Bangsamoro government to recognize the role of women in governance and to ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. Moreover, they said they wanted the future government to guarantee their full and direct participation in the development process, to have equal access to land ownership, and to benefit equally in the implementation of development programs and projects. The women wanted assurance that a gender-responsive approach will be promoted in all aspects of security and peacebuilding. They wanted the Bangsamoro government to require political parties to have a women’s agenda, and integrate women in the electoral nominating processes. These were proposals from women on the ground. The next step was how to get these proposals to the fore.
We approached the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) tasked to draft the BBL. We submitted the proposals personally and explained how we were able to generate the proposals to the members of the Commission. When the BTC submitted its draft to the Office of the President of the Philippines, we were delighted to see many of the women’s proposals incorporated in the draft law!
Our next hurdle was the Philippine Congress. Before the big task of lobbying, we went through an advocacy training where we refreshed our knowledge of concepts and techniques in lobbying. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been very proud of us as we employed every bit of campaign and lobby technique we knew. We sent the parliamentarians emails and snail mails. We asked women peacebuilders from all over the world to send our legislators statements of support for our proposals. We knocked on every legislator’s door and if allowed, explained the women’s asks. We frequented the session halls and spoke to every parliamentarian possible. We developed and gave away campaign material such as umbrellas and chocolates. We attended and spoke in public hearings. We joined and organized public actions, the most notable of which, perhaps, was our Bangs for the Bangsamoro stunt which encouraged people to cut their bangs in support of women’s participation in peace and security-related processes in the future Bangsamoro. We organized public forums to orient the youth on the Mindanao peace process and the BBL.
Together with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines we reached out to many students from different regions in the country. On Women’s Day, we organized a march in which women from civil society, the security sector and government processed together to call for peace in Mindanao.
With the support of an international organization, we were able to place advertisements in newspapers. And to make sure that our women will be ready to participate when the Bangsamoro government is in place, we organized capacity-sharing workshops on women’s leadership in politics, peace and security.
When the House of Representatives Ad Hoc
Committee released its draft BBL, we rejoiced upon seeing that most of our lobby points were included. The Senate version did not put in as much but we are not giving up on them just yet.
The women are waiting for the BBL to be endorsed by the Philippine Congress but months have passed and the bill remains in the interpellation stage. We hope that when Congress resumes session in November 2015, it will give the bill the attention it deserves. After all, the peace negotiations took all of 17 years to complete.
And the women can’t wait to fully and meaningfully count for peace!