Monday, September 22, 2008
GENDERED CONCERNS IN THE QUEST FOR PEACE: Experiences in the Peace Zones
COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS MULTIVERSITY
For the last 4 years, the CO Multiversity has been engaged in working for peace and development in select municipalities of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur using community-based approaches.
While there are visible successes in terms of strengthening peace mechanisms for local conflict resolutions and enhancing the capacities of Local
Government Units and People’s Organizations in managing community development, there is a glaring lack of gender-responsive strategies and outputs in these programs.
However, this lack of gender-based approach by the CO Multiversity is considered a strategy for effective community organizing especially in these Muslim areas. It is fully aware that patriarchal tradition is more enmeshed in the Muslim’s culture and institutions compared to the majority Christian. Thus, handling gender as a crucial component of peace and development demands full caution and cultural sensitivity and thus comes later in the process of community organizing.
By mid 2006, with support from Trocaire, CO Multiversity crossed
the bounds by embarking on a 4-month project “Mainstreaming Gender in Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in The Peace Zones”. Gender-sensitivity sessions, workshops and fora, have been conducted attended by LGU officials, from municipality to barangay, as well as leaders of POs and traditional
leaders from the 7 project areas. In these venues, participants share, reflect and did some introspection as they hear and listen to discussions on Gender.
Admittedly, this gender-based paradigm provided them a different way of looking at human relationship, posing questions and challenges on their own understanding and assumptions of a historically evolved tradition.
Situation of Women in the Peace Zones
The focused group discussions and gender-sensitivity workshops have provided venues for PO leaders and LGU officers, men and the very few women alike, to once again discuss openly and objectively their community and family lives, giving emphasis on the roles women
have played and the roles they have assumed.
The process elicited voluntary reflections and sharing of reflective realizations from the participants on how they felt about such practices and traditions. Some excerpts below:
Sangguniang Member of Matanog: “I realized that what I’ve been doing for a long time is a big mistake.”
Hadji Quirino Oranto, Sindaw Alliance President:
“You’re right Kagawad. I also have that same realization long time ago but I just don’t how to address it. Now is the time thus this forum is very significant to me.”
Alim of Matanog:”I accept that we men have done a mistake and it is what Islam is teaching. Islam condemns oppression of wives or women in general. Doing such is punishable by Allah. In Islam, the men are responsible for women.”
Ustadja: “… the woman may go learn, teach, work, etc, as long as with the husband’s consent. The family is a
woman’s priority because it is believed that she cannot enter heaven if her family has been neglected.”
Salik D. Alim, a
Sangguniang Member of
admitting mistakes done to their women.
Table 1. Roles women play in the community
1. Acts as negotiator or mediator over a dispute or times of controversy and war
2. Maintains peace in the community
3. Promotes better living in the community
4. Promotes peace initiatives in her own community and even with neighboring communities
5. Engages in livelihood promotion or
6. Leads the community in governance or in
7. Serves as police officer
8. Serves or leads in spiritual affairs of the community
9. Performs occupational tasks such as doctors, engineers, administrators, organizers, etc.
10. Performs any task that a man does
11. Participates in decision-making for amicable settlement over disputes
12. Joins in worthwhile competitions/contests such as Koranic reading, cultural presentations, etc.
13. Earns for a living
14. Acts as adviser to individuals, families or groups
15. A pacifier
16. A peace advocate
17. A facilitator
18. Volunteers for disaster response team
Table 3. Problems/Issues of Women in the Peace Zones
1. Lack of infrastructures such as social
halls, health centers, etc.
2. Lack of livelihood opportunities
3. Lack of support to women activities
from the government
4. Lack of men’s support to women’s
5. Lack of unity among women
6. Most women dwell in poverty
7. Financial problems often beset women
8. Non-resolution of some big family feuds
Table 4. Community Activities where women’s participation is a must
1. Practically, in all community affairs
2. Medical missions
3. Teachings on values and spiritual upliftment
4. Formation of organizations
5. During Kanduli or cultural celebrations
6. Peace for a, symposia, trainings, seminars
7. Bangsamoro assemblies
8. Quranic Reading Competition
Women Participation in Conflict Resolution
Table 5 below presents the series of conflict eruptions in Mindanao which each of the seven barangays in the study have undergone. These conflict eruptions date back to the 70s which most participants identify as a watershed of Mindanao history. These conflicts leave indelible imprints on the lives of women as they witness
or experience the horror of war and its concomitant component of human indignity.
In peace or in conflict, women play important roles.
Table 5. Women Participation in Conflict Resolution
1) Family Feuds Usually mediates between the disputing parties
2) Political Rivalry Sometimes mediates and negotiates
3) Land Conflict Sometimes serves as witness of the incident or cases
4) Inheritance Gives information and advises; mediates
5) “Duaya” or man marrying more than one woman - A strong woman can defend one’s right as a wife
6) Political Campaign Acts as a campaign manager of a political leader/party
Table 6 enumerates the roles women assume in conflict resolutions as discussed by the participants.