Monday, September 22, 2008

Peacebuilding Project – Enhancing the Role of Women in Community-Based Conflict Resolutions

Objectives of the Project:

This peacebuilding project was aimed to integrate the important role of women in the conflict resolution mechanisms of the peace zones. Specifically, after a four-month timeframe, the project was expected to enable 10 key staff of CO Multiversity, 14 people organization leader-representatives, and 20 women leaders to increase gender awareness and install women in the peace mechanisms in each of the six peace zones, namely,

a) Brgy Makir, Datu, Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao
b) Brgy Bayanga Norte, Matanog, Maguindanao
c) Brgy Mataya, Buldon, Maguindanao
d) Sitio Cagarawan, Tugaig, Barira, Maguindanao
e) Brgy Daguan, Kaptagan, Lanao del Sur and
f) Brgy Chua, Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat

Through research utilizing Focus Group Discussion (FGD), gender-related literature, gender-sensitivity training and forum the project had intended to:

1) describe the situation and role of women in conflict situations and resolutions;
2) discuss the cultural and historical factors which have contributed to the situation of women;
3) share practical tools in gender analysis from existing models and frameworks; and
4) plan for the integration of women I conflict resolution mechanisms in the localities.

The strategies employed in implementing the project included research on gender-related literature and conduct of Focus Group Discussion (FGD), gender consciousness raising at the level of the CO Multiversity staff, people’s organizations, and the Local Government Units (LGUs), and followed with application of the gender framework particularly ensuring legislative support for inclusion of women at the peace zone peace mechanisms.

The end output of this study is an attempt to identify the gaps of women participation in governance specifically with focus on conflict resolution mechanisms, increased gender sensitivity, and usher the leaders in mainstreaming gender at the local level, barangay and municipal units of government of the above mentioned peace zones. The Community Organizers’ Multiversity in collaboration with the Sindaw Ko Kalilintad, the alliance of peace advocates comprising of people’s organization from the peace zones and LGUs (Local Government Units) assisted the communities in mainstreaming gender in the peace mechanisms.

II. Highlights of Accomplishments

A. Research

An important component of the project is the research on gender related literature the situation of women in the peace zones through a Focus Group Discussions.

1) Review of Related Literature

Prior to any mainstreaming activity, COM gathered facts, information and related studies about gender from literatures in order to have an overview of the global and national situation of women. Relevant facts about women that has bearing on the project were gathered and considered in the process of intervention. These facts pertain to the following gender aspects: health, labor force, politics, violence, pro-women legislations and involvement in conflict resolutions.

In conclusion to the related facts, women in the global and national scene remain behind compared to men in almost all aspects of life – economic, social and political despite the pro-women programs and women in development initiatives.

There is also scarcity of women engaged in promoting culturally sensitive gender orientation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where the peace zones are located. There is an existing Bangsamoro Women Organization but the emphasis is more on culture, religion, and economic concerns.

2) Situation of Women in the Peace Zones as a Result of FGD

In determining the situation of women in the peace zones, 30 women leaders were gathered in a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) at the El Marco Hotel in Cotabato City last April 4, 2006. The FGD enabled the women participants to understand better gender as well as how they have been actively involved in resolving local conflicts such as family feuds and even in times of war. Women usually act as mediator in conflicts. In the peace zones, they are active peace advocates. The FGD found out that despite this, there are no women in formal conflict resolution mechanisms like the barangay justice system and in the council of elders.

The FGD disclosed the women presence in the formal governance structure of the peace zones, it is apparent that women are not look up as leaders. In the peace zones where seven people’s organizations of peace advocates exists, there were 53 women leaders an approximately 30 % of the total leadership if each organization had 22 elected leaders. It also affirms the OneWomen study on women’s rights in the Philippines that women have been actively involved in nation-building but in other venues like civil society organization and other social movements.

The impacts of war as enumerated by the women in FGD had been dreadful especially to women. They had experienced conflict at various levels and types such as clan-based violence and war. They do not want conflict to occur anymore so as much as possible they tend to mediate or take action to prevent conflict amongst clan, families, and residents in the peace zones.

There are women attributes, hardly possessed by men that make them effective even in informal mediation approaches such as calmness and a deeper sense of understanding.

3) Cultural and Historical factors affecting women participation in conflict resolution mechanisms:

The low women participation in the formal conflict resolution mechanisms can be accounted to two factors, the cultural aspect and history.

The Muslims who adhere to Islamism teaches that as long as there are men, women are not to rule or govern. That is why most of Muslim women in politics hold only secondary positions. However, there is a woman who showed a difference. In Lanao del Sur, the Mayor of Kapatagan is a woman. She is believed to be intelligent, brave, and responsible. Hence, this paper affirms that religion can not be a hindrance to women empowerment only that there is a need to break the belief. For the Muslims, Islam embraces culture and religion.

Historical events such as war made women bound to caring for children at the evacuation centers and most of all for survival.

Another factor that hinders women participation in governance is the lack of highly literate and courageous woman in the community. Having grown in a culture that treats women as secondary to men, most of the women in the peace zones are aloof and so embarrassed to talk except for a few who have been exposed, educated, and experienced.

B. Consciousness Raising

A Gender Sensitivity Training (GST) and Forum on Mainstreaming Gender at the Local Peace Mechanims was held in Davao City last June 13-15, 2006. This was participated in by council members from the LGUs, members of the council of elders and barangay justice (Lupon), officers of people organizations, and women leaders of the six peace zones.

The two-day GST and Forum was aimed to increase gender sensitivity among LGU officials, People’s Organization leaders and Women Sectors of the Peace Zones in order to eventually mainstream gender in local governance particularly in the conflict resolution mechanisms. Specifically, the training enabled the participants to:

1) articulate their own awareness and understanding on the basic gender concepts and issues and Islam concepts on gender;
2) discuss the situation and issues of women based in the peace zones;
3) appreciate the vital role of women in governance particularly in resolving conflicts;
4) explain the different approaches, framework and tools for gender and development;
5) develop an LGU-PO collaborative plan in mainstreaming gender in the peace zones.

In this activity, the result of the FGD with women was shared to the group which received affirmation that women’s role is significant in attaining peace yet they were not recognized in the formal government structures. The cultural and historical factors contributing to the situation of women were thoroughly deliberated in the forum since most of the participants are learned individuals in terms of Islam and the cultural aspect.

It was affirmed in the Gender Mainstreaming Forum that the cultural and religious beliefs affected women participation in governance. With humility, some participants accepted their indifferent treatment to women in all aspects. The councilman of Matanog expressed how he had been cruel to women all his life. The members of the bodies that resolved conflicts, Ulama Council, also realized that they cannot tackle all types of conflict without the women.

Upon the adoption of the Gender and Development (GAD) Framework, the GST and forum ended with a mainstreaming action plan which assured legislative action for women to become a permanent member of the local peace mechanisms in the peace zones.

C. Community-Level Gender Mainstreaming

By community-based application, this means that the peace zone leaders adopted the Gender and Development Framework (please refer to figure 1) and hence provided a friendly environment for women participation at the barangay and municipal level. In particular, the 6 peace zones differ in their application considering the unique situation of the localities regarding governance or administration.

COM’s advocacy continued at the local level. The Technical Officer attended Sangguniang Pambarangay (Barangay Council) sessions, Council of Elders’ Meetings, and in people organizations’ board meetings. The advocacy had been successful so far though the implementation pace differs. Table 5 below shows how the peace zones install a gender-sensitive peace mechanism and the constraints they identified.

The qualities of the women to be appointed member of the peace councils were deliberated in the process of approving the resolution though they were spelled out in the document. Women who are learned, experienced, mature, and respected in the community are candidates to the appointments.

The outcome listed in Table 1 had gone through processes which are unique from each locality. The gender mainstreaming processes undertaken are seen relevant and worth sharing thus, a case study is packaged as addendum to this report.

III. Problems Encountered

 So far, there was no significant problem encountered in implementing the project except of the major considerations by the Barangay LGU on financial implications. The LGU is obliged to provide an honorarium for members of the Barangay Lupon or the Council of Elders, Municipal Committees, and similar bodies. Aside from this, most of those in the committee are there by appointment of the chief executive. Hence, requesting such additional seat for women is seen as a burden to the LGU.

 In the peace zones, most women have been active at the people’s organization level. Women participation especially in decision making in governance is seen as weak at the moment.

 The women’s groups that exist mostly were organized with an economic drive which is a basic need. Hence, there is a need to widen their horizons and increase their capabilities in order to gain courage to participate in formal governance structures.

IV. Recommendations

The gender inclusion legislations/policy would be of no significance unless the following recommendations will be pushed through:

 Strengthening of women organizations in the peace zones through capacity building is necessary with the aim of responding to the women needs and aspirations towards participation in governance.
 Support women inclusion in the peace mechanisms Information Education Campaign (IEC) like highlighting women achievements as they are involved in resolving conflicts and exemplary practices in governance.
 Coaching the women who are involved in governance and in the peace mechanisms to make them effective in leadership and decision-making.
 The Gender and Development (GAD) Framework must be consciously implemented in order to effect a gender-sensitive governance in the peace zones.

V. Lessons Learned

 In advocating for gender equality, it should be underscored that partnership is the end goal of the initiative rather than empowering women to overpower men.

 If men are given the due respect, empowering women would not be taken as a threat to them but rather a support to their endeavors.

 Financial support that was seen as constraint to the application of gender-sensitive policies can be remedied by advocating both at the local legislative and executive levels.

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