Security forces attend workshop to boost women’s role in building lasting peace in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
Author: Carol Dawonlay vda Bello
Bangsamoro, Philippines — Government security forces attended a workshop alongside Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members this month, to explore how best to support women’s participation in conflict resolution and peace building in the newly autonomous region of Bangsamoro.
The event was held 6-8 April 2021 in General Santos City, located on the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines, to develop shared local measures to advance the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security launched in November by the Bangsamoro Women Commission, who organized the workshop jointly with UN Women.
“As police officers we learned about gender-based violence,” said Police Major R.A Kuntong, of the Maguindanao Police Provincial Office, “also about gender-responsive mechanisms and policies that address women’s problems, especially women caught amid conflict.”
The women of Mindanao have suffered disproportionality from the civil conflict that ran in the majority-Muslim region from the 1970s until the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was formed in early 2019. Women and girls need targeted support in facing the aftermath of the conflict, as well as ongoing threats to their rights and safety. But they also have proven to play a particularly effective role in healing the region and building lasting peace.
The security-sector actors identified key challenges in this regard, including ongoing security issues associated both with rido (clans or family feuds), political armed groups and violent extremism, noting that violent extremist organisations were operating in the region. Critical issues further impacting women and girls were also discussed, namely trafficking in women and girls, and child, early and forced marriage.
The Regional Action Plan of the Bangsamoro Women Commission prioritizes women’s participation in building peace, notably in policy and decision-making, as well as the protection of women and their communities from violence, among other things. The Commission is leading a series of consultative planning processes involving several stakeholders in the BARMM to clinch commitments on the agenda of women, peace and security. The localization process is being supported by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, jointly implemented by UN WOMEN, IOM and UNFPA.
The local action plans developed in the workshop are based on lessons learned and good practices from previous provincial localization efforts in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
“I hope [the outcomes] will strengthen the [local] action plans to address the violent extremism-related crime surge, to build community resilience amid armed conflict, and to implement strategic activities to achieve women, peace and security goals,” said Helen Rojas, chief of staff to the chair of the Bangsamoro Women Commission.
The plans call for the recruitment of more women cadets, the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Brigade. They also call for more women in leadership positions, notably in police community relations and investigation teams; and for more women from diverse backgrounds to be deployed in community patrols.
Making the security sector more gender-responsive will make it more effective overall. Mechanisms suggested during the workshop included: establishing gender-based early warning response teams; improving the investigation and management of gender-based violence cases; setting up a women’s desk in evacuation camps to address the security needs of displaced women and girls; and organizing training in gender-sensitive conflict resolution.
The Philippines has committed to several relevant international legal frameworks. These include the Women, Peace and Security agenda initiated in 2000 by the UN Security Council resolution 1325, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the United Nations in 1979, and the CEDAW General Recommendation 30. The country transposed CEDAW at the national level in 2009 with its own Republic Act 9710, more widely known as Magna Carta of Women.
At the workshop’s close, Gaelle Demolis, acting officer in charge of UN Women for the Philippines, said she was “inspired and humbled by the security sector women and men and their commitment to the WPS agenda.” “Every day they provide locally relevant and concrete solutions to build a peaceful and just BARMM,” she said.