In a patriarchal society, women are often relegated to domestic roles, and are usually excluded from leadership and crucial decision-making roles and processes – this is especially true in areas where armed conflict is present. But through bayanihan, the women of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are speaking out and leading reforms in the peace process.
“If we truly want the Bangsamoro women to be equal partners in development, then all policies and decisions affecting us should be made with us,” said Zahria Muti-Mapandi, Executive Director of Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation.
Recognizing the role of women in the peace process, Australia, in partnership with Oxfam Pilipinas, supported community consultations to consolidate a women’s agenda and encourage meaningful women’s engagement in the peace process. They worked with civil society organizations in six provinces in the newly reconstituted Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“For a local women’s agenda to work, it must come from Bangsamoro women from all walks of life. Women are not merely asking for seats at the policy negotiating table to face current leadership – rather, we want our leadership to be recognized and respected,” said Muti-Mapandi.
Thus, the Consolidated Bangsamoro Women’s Agenda was created, through a series of local workshops and a national conference involving women’s rights organizations and more than 400 Bangsamoro women.
The Women’s Agenda aims to identify and validate the Bangsamoro women’s perspectives on gender equality, and integrate women’s rights into the fundamental Bangsamoro laws.
It was categorized into six broad components in line with the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security: participation and empowerment; protection and prevention of violence against women in situations of armed conflict and natural disasters; socio-economic development; security; transitional justice and reconciliation; and gender mainstreaming.
The experience of building the agenda strengthened the capacity of women leaders and their communities to articulate women’s issues in the creation of a shared vision of a gender-responsive and inclusive BARMM government. It also allowed them to claim their spaces in the BARMM transition process.
“Failing to address injustices against the Bangsamoro people, such as socio-economic disparities, discrimination, and disenfranchisement from political processes, will allow conflict to spark anew. Women and youth must play a meaningful role in shaping the agenda and conflict resolution processes that follow ceasefires. This recognizes their agency, leadership, and their contributions in creating a humane, just and peaceful BARMM,” said Noraida Abo, Executive Director of United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UnYPhil-Women).
The Women’s Agenda is seen as the starting point for Bangsamoro women to sustain genuine conversations in ensuring that Bangsamoro women will not be left behind in the development of BARMM. Advocates see this initiative as the catalyst towards the creation of a women’s political party, and more women leaders running for office in 2022.
The Agenda also covers other vulnerable sectors to which women belong – the internally displaced, Indigenous peoples, older persons, orphans, out-of-school youth, widows, and persons with disabilities – whose concerns should be equally considered in policy-making, budgeting, and program design, implementation, and monitoring.
Zahria “Linky” Muti-Mapandi sadly passed away in December 2020. She dedicated her life, even throughout her illness, to peace and gender justice, especially in the Bangsamoro.