Monday, September 22, 2008

Part 2 - Gender Issues in Peace Building

Community Level Gender Mainstreaming

COM’s work in the Muslim communities for the last five years employs community organizing approach that is issue-based. Communities’ response was an affirmation of the effectivity of such approach, in the sense that the community itself identifies their own problems and brainstorm on possible solutions. Community organizers acted as facilitators and intervened only in terms of capacity building of community leader, both traditional and elected.Though project areas are at the barangay level, the municipal LGUs were regularly informed and invited to gatherings where project concerns are discussed. Also, LGU officials in both barangay and municipal levels
were invited to attend consciousness-raising activities, like the Culture of Peace.

Table 7. Women’s Attributes: Cultural and Historical Factors Influencing Women’s role in Conflict Resolution

1) Family Feuds Usually mediates between two disputing parties Women are expected to be calm and patient in tackling issues; women being highly respected by tradition should not be hurt
2) Political Rivalry Sometimes mediates and Negotiates Women remain neutral in between two conflicting parties and not prone to suspicion.
3) Land Conflict Sometimes serves as witness of the incident or cases
Women is knowledgeable about land areas, ownership and ownership
4) Inheritance Gives information and advises; mediates Women are more understanding than men and are more careful and kind to approach on settling conflicts.
5) “Duaya” or man marrying more than one woman
A strong woman can defend one’s right as a wife Islamism allows a man to
enjoy up to 4th marriage engagements
6) Political Campaign Acts as a campaign manager of a political leader/party A woman has tongue to influence individuals.

After some 3-4 years of community activities focused on problems identified by the PO, COM decided to
integrate the Gender and Development GAD Framework.

The Gender- Sensitivity Sessions proved to be useful and instrumental in introducing the Gender perspective to the Muslim leaders. It provided them venues to discuss and to reflect how women have been treated in their culture purportedly by following Islamic tenets. It also became the venue where they realized and accepted how women are affected as a consequence.

In the same sessions, after long deliberation, they appreciated the Gender and Development Framework.
To prove, they approved in principle that they will work for the mainstreaming of women participation in municipal and barangay affairs.

COM’s advocacy continued to the local level. The Technical Officer attended Sangguniang Pambarangay
(Barangay Council) sessions, Council of Elders’ Meetings, and in people organizations’ board meetings.
Common in every session are exchanges and sharings of realizations and affirmations of how important and indispensable the roles of women are.

The advocacy of COM had been successful so far though the implementation process and paces differ from area to area. Cases of Barira and Kapatagan are presented below whose experiences in local governance put to test the purportedly Islamic tenet of prohibiting women to occupy positions of power or leadership.

Case 1: Barira Experience
No Women in Politics: Islamic or Political?

Historically, legends tell that the municipality of Barira
got its name from a woman’s weaving tool, “barira”.
During a flashflood, the tool was carried away by the
torrential currents of water. Before the area became a
municipality, it was ruled by a woman. Hence, women
played significant place in the history of the
municipality. However, the present municipal
leadership seems to deviate from this historical account
of the place. As told, he is just following Islamic tenet.
When incumbent Mayor Alexander Tomawis took office,
he called to his office the two elected women to the
municipal council and told them he does not want any
women in the council or in any elected position in the
local government. He terminated the two elected
women and replaced them with his two appointed men.
The basis was purportedly Islamic – women are not
allowed to assume positions of power. The two women
did not show any signs of protest, nor the other
members of the council or anybody in the municipality.
All seemed to uphold the Mayor’s decision and action,
on the belief that he is just doing what is an Islamic
During the Gender-Sensitivity Session, Hadji Oranto
reflected and shared this experience to the group:
“ I am in a hot water with the gender issue in my LGU…
You know I was awarded the ‘Most Outstanding Peace
Advocate of Year’… There where actually two elected
women councilors in Barira. The mayor called these
women and told them he does not watn a woman in the
SB on in any elected lower position in the local
government. No one questioned it because that’s the
order of the mayor. I received several feedbacks and
questions. Is the Mayor’s administration a dictatorship
or what? But I replied that’s not the case. Now there’s
an apprehension that the Mayor is pushing for his
wife’s mayorship in Buldon. That’s exactly contrary to
his management in Barira. So I have been
contemplating. Maybe I have to leave this LGU. Your
comments to this forum will surely help me think
through these things seriously. I would appreciate if a
gender forum will be held in Barira inviting the Mayor’s
In a regular Barira Ulama Council meeting last July 24,
2006, a gender-based perspective of development was
advocated to them. The religious and traditional
leaders appreciated the women empowerment
initiative. They also affirmed that women’s
involvement in resolving community conflicts is very
helpful. They welcomed the women to the council.
However, since their appointment to the council is a
prerogative of the Mayor, they suggested to first refer
the matter to the chief executive. The latter, when
consulted declared that he already had on desk plans to
appoint a woman member to the Ulama Council. He
envisioned of a knowledgeable woman, experienced,
mature and highly respected by the community to
become a member of the Barira Ulama Council. The said
appointment shall take place as soon as requirements
are ready and proper orientation must be ensured.
However, there are some apprehensions on this move.
As articulated by one official of the municipality, the
Mayor is actually pushing for his wife’s mayorship in
Buldon, the adjacent municipality. So, the community
wondered what really is the Islamic teaching regarding
women’s involvement in politics?
While this was happening at the municipal level,
initiatives at the grassroot level was also brewing.
The Cagarawan Tugaig Farmers’ Organization (CFTOI)
was organized by the COM previous project and was
able to tap other sources to help put up their consumer
store in Barira. Unsurprisingly, the officers of the
organization is mostly men, while women occupy
positions which are extension of the household – that is
managing their coop store, selling the goods and the
safe-keeping of the organization’s money, a Treasurer.
The 9-member Board of Directors, the policy-making
body of the organization are all men.
After attending the gender sensitivity fora and
workshops facilitated by COM, the PO leaders did not
have a hard time admitting the sensibility of the GAD
framework. They are already fully aware of women’s
active role in the organization. The success of their
consumer cooperative store is attributed to the
undaunting efforts and efficiency of the women who
manage and run the store. Even in meetings, women
are as active as the men in voicing ideas and opinions.
As a concrete move that they uphold GAD and embrace
such as a developmental perspective, they approved in
principle that at the BOD, there should have at least 30
% women members. They are now preparing to
formalize this resolution which needs a General
Assembly endorsement. But they are very sure, there
will be no problem with the GA.

Case 2: The Case of Kapatagan
Being a Woman does not mean Gendered
Having a woman leader does not mean she will
automatically espouse gender-based development
agenda, even to assure that women will be given equal
opportunities with men in positions of leadership.
Unless the leader, either man or a woman, has critical
views on the historically-evolved man-woman roles in
the broader context of societal processes, and he/she
appreciates the alternative framework for development,
that is GAD, and then he or she will likely continue the
tradition of making women subordinate, marginalized
and unrecognized in broader social processes. This is
the experience of Kapatagan.
The Mayor of Kapatagan is a woman and she was
elected because there was no man capable or more able
than her to assume the position. As a Mayor, she has
the mandate to appoint 15 members to a Municipal
Committee, which takes charge of settling conflicts in
the municipality. Surprisingly or expectedly, there was
no single woman appointed. At present, there is a
woman sitting but this is accidental since her husband,
who was the member, died and she assumed the
position. The wife who assumed her husband’s role
and the mayoralty of the now-Mayor are both cases of
unintended women participation in leadership and
governance. This is purportedly Islamic – women will
come only when there are no capable men.
This became an interesting discussion during the Gender
Sensitivity session with Ulama Council members. They
realized such situation and have reflected on them.
They also appreciated the Gender-based framework of
development. As a result, they articulated a plan to
put women in the Ulama Council.
Gender advocacy with Ulama Council of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur
In a meeting last August 4, 2006, the Kapatagan Ulama
Council en banc acted to pass a resolution to the
Sangguniang Bayan requesting for at least two women
representative to the Municipal Committee coming from
the Ulama council. The Ulamas who worked for the
enactment of the said resolution are all male, and they
have attended the COM’s gender-sensitivity workshop.
Gewa T. Bagnas, Sultan of Kapatagan & SB Member:
“As a Muslim traditional leader, I wish our women be given equal opportunities to
assume leadership positions because I know very well they can do a lot. Mayor Rayda
Bansil-Manlangit is an example. Women’s role is utmostly needed – from the
household to the community. I admit that there are women who are more capable,
more intelligent, than men. That is why we should support the move to put them in
positions of governance, more so in conflict resolution mechanisms. There are things
which we men cannot respond and handle as effectively and as skillfully as women
can in an investigation process. More so, women are more adept in ironing out the
qualms and quirks of our Muslim brothers.“
At the same time, at the grassroots level, the male
leaders of Illana Daguan Benito Malinday Farmers’
Association (IDBM) who have attended the gendersensitivity
workshop approved in principle the idea of
allocating women in the Board of Directors. They
assured that they will work it out in the next General
Assembly which is the policy making body of the
IDBM is also a brainchild of COM’s community organizing
work. For more than two years, it partners with COM on
implementing community projects the community itself
identified. For both bodies, it is welcome to discuss
anything for the development of the community, and to
brainstorm on new ideas. The GAD framework was
objectively discussed, and there was no strong reaction
on mainstreaming women’s participation in leadership
of the organization.
Mainstreaming Gender in Conflict Resolution
COM has worked with the POs for some two years
already. It has facilitated the formation of Peoples
Organizations in the project areas and strengthened the
existing ones. COM enhanced their capabilities by
providing trainings on leadership, community
development, culture of peace and conflict resolution.
In the process, COM and the PO have become partners
in implementing much-needed community projects.
From the side of the community and PO, COM has
already established credibility and legitimacy in their
role as their mentor, facilitator and partner in
development. In like manner, to the COM community
organizers, they already have established rapport with
the communities, have identified credible and
dependable leaders and have attained some level of
understanding on how the community people can be
effectively mobilized for their own development.
Thus, mainstreaming gender in local peace mechanisms
presents lesser hardship in the sense that COM
organizers and PO leaders and the community in general
has reached a level of partnership wherein they can
discuss matters that pertains to the betterment of their
communities. Below are different approaches of
mainstreaming gender in peace at the barangay level.
COM Project Coordinator, Bing Constantino giving
input in Gender Sensitivity Training

Case 3: Case of Bayanga Norte
Women Participation in Peace Leadership
Realizing that the PO is already a significant player in
community development, COM did not go directly to the
LGU-barangay but mobilized the PO to this effect.
Since the municipality has no Council of Elders to attend
to local conflict settlement, the role of the Lupon
(Barangay Jsutice) is very crucial because in its hands
lies all the responsibilities of settling disputes and
conflict in the community.
Having attended gender-sensitivity session, it was not
difficult for the officers to steer the association for a
gender-responsive action. The Iranun Farmers’
Association of Bayanga Norte (IFABN), passed a
resolution requesting the barangay council of Bayanga
Norte to appoint at least three women representatives
to the barangay justice.
Likewise, it was not difficult for the barangay council to
yield to the POs request. The barangay chairman and
few others have attended the gender-sensitivity
activities of the COM. In a regular session held last
August 1, 2006, the Sangguniang Pambarangay approved
the resolution for immediate implementation that three
women should become members of the Barangay Lupon.
In addition, the barangay council mandated the IFABN,
being the most active and credible PO in the barangay,
to recommend the women representatives. As a
response, IFABN assured they will select educated,
active and committed members of the association who
have already provided track record in active community

Case 4: Case of Makir
Assuring Women’s Role in In Peace Building
A Council of Elders exists in the municipality of Makir.
However, there are no women members. The PO
(Samahan ng Maralitang Mamamayan ng Makir) (SMMMI),
which COM has facilitated to be organized, informally
initiated to request the Barangay Council to draft a
resolution that there shall be 3 seats for women in the
Lupon (Council). This paved the way for the crafting of
a Barangay Ordinance enacting a local Women
Empowerment Act. This act stipulates that 40 percent
(40%) of the seats of the Barangay Lupon shall be
allocated for women. Moreover, also the Council of
Elders itself applied this resolution to their
Instantly women were appointed as members to the
Barangay Justice and at the Council of Elders. The
criteria for choosing the representatives were based on
availability and maturity. Active and committed women
members of the SMMMI were on top of the list of
possible women aspirants.
Furthermore, the barangay government also committed
to extend to the new women members the benefits
Lupon receives, such as monthly allowance taken from
the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the barangay.
At the same time, the people’s organization, Samahan
ng Maralitang Mamamayan ng Makir (SMMMI), also
adopted in principle the same policy. They are waiting
to formalize the decision in the general assembly in
order to make constitutional amendments.

Reflections and Recommendations
Gender and Islam
Many of the cultural practices in the Muslim
communities which prohibit or restrict women’s
participation in the mainstream society have become
unquestionably Islamic, even to the Muslim leaders.
The cognitive assumption that they are Islamic leaves
little room or no room at all for critical analysis on how
these practices are impacting their women and their
society. However, there is a growing critical mass
among the Muslim populace, especially those who have
attended gender sensitivity sessions provided by
development programs. And there are already
numerable inroads to implementing gender-responsive
programs that addresses women’s subordination,
women’s exploitation and invisibility.
The peace zone communities already have a certain
grasp of gender but this was not fully understood. The
Kapatagan woman expressing appreciation for the initiative
towards gender balance.
advocacy done by COM with the support of the people
organizations under the Sindaw Ko Kalilintad alliance of
peace advocates received positive responses at the
barangay and municipal levels. The gender initiative
was considered significant in the peace zones where
conflict particularly rido (clan violence) is prevalent.
At the project level, gender-based interventions
focused on the increase of women’s participation in
conflict resolution as well as community leadership.
This is already a milestone in Muslim community
development. However, the bigger challenge of
formulating a gender-responsive development agenda
lies ahead.
Thus, in tandem with increasing women’s participation
in local conflict resolution, it would be more meaningful
that the project will now embark on gender-based
community development program. Doing such, it is
envisioned that the community will now engage in
proactive moves that will deal with the basic problems
of men and women in the respective areas. Examples of
these proactive programs are community health (ie
primary health care) and community food security.

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