Bangsamoro Women at the Helm of Peacebuilding and Community Resilience in BARMM

By Dr. Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Philippines Resident Representative, and BTA MP Hadja Bainon G. Karon, Bangsamoro Women Commission Chairperson

March 29, 2022

Launch of the Women Insider Mediators - Rapid Action Mobilization Platform (WIM-RAMP)

Throughout the history of the Bangsamoro, the harsh realities of poverty, underdevelopment, and violence amid armed conflict have disproportionately impacted Bangsamoro women. For years, societal narratives seemed to highlight how Bangsamoro women have been negatively affected by violent conflicts. At times, these narratives failed to consider the critical role played by women as agents of change for peace and development in their respective communities.

During the transition period, we witnessed the transformation of these narratives, underpinned by the significant contributions of women in the implementation of the peace agreement, both in the Political Transition and Normalization tracks. We witnessed more women become empowered to play crucial roles in peacebuilding and governance in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. We also heard of stories of hope, agency and resilience among Bangsamoro women in the face of multiple risks and vulnerabilities arising from natural disasters, violent conflicts, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Since women experience more the impact of conflict, it is necessary that they are on-board and meaningfully participating in conflict resolution and peace processes to ensure a gender-sensitive and gender-responsive process and outcome.

In BARMM, women constitute 51% of the total population. Thus, there can be no genuine peace without the meaningful inclusion and participation of women in building the Bangsamoro. The history of the Bangsamoro peace process is full of stories of women taking on crucial roles as advocates, facilitators, mediators and peacebuilders. For instance, in 2018, thousands of Bangsamoro women, some of whom walked barefoot under the heat of the sun, lobbied and rallied for the passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). They wanted peace and actively claimed their positions to be participants of peace and nation-building.

The eventual passing of the BOL, which paved the way for the establishment of the BARMM, created a positive environment for women’s participation and leadership in the region. Several provisions in the BOL sought to recognize the important role of women in peacebuilding and development in the region, such as the inclusion of reserved seats for women, youth and indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Parliament, the appointment of at least one woman to the Bangsamoro Cabinet, and the consideration of women’s need in rehabilitation and development programmes. The BOL also put forth the promotion of gender-responsiveness in all aspects of security and peacebuilding, including in ensuring the meaningful participation of women in decision-making in all levels of governance. More concretely, the BOL also provided for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC).

In 2020, with the support of development partners, including UNDP, the BWC launched the Bangsamoro Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (RAP-WPS) 2020-2022, which sought to enhance the role of Bangsamoro women in the implementation of the peace agreement, in conflict transformation and in the protection of their human rights in conflict and post-conflict settings. Furthermore, in support of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in BARMM, the BWC and UNDP supported the establishment of the Women Insider Mediators-Rapid Action and Mobilization Platform (WIM-RAMP), a group of community-based women mediators and peacebuilders. Composed of women leaders representing their own respective organizations, the WIM-RAMP members have committed to actively work towards building community resilience. A year after their creation in 2021, WIM-RAMP members continue to reach out to marginalized and vulnerable groups in their efforts to build resilience and peace in their respective communities. The WPS programme of BWC and UNDP is being supported by various development partners, including Australia, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway and European Union.

The path forward is clear: if we are to strengthen community resilience and build sustainable peace in the region, we must continue to invest in women in the Bangsamoro.

Truly, the Bangsamoro region has come a long way in understanding the importance of gender-sensitive and gender-responsive approaches to peacebuilding and development. Still, so much more must be done for both Bangsamoro women and men to equally benefit from the gains of the peace process. It is every Bangsamoro woman’s right to be actively included and involved especially in this period of transition where peace and development efforts are geared towards rebuilding communities, addressing injustices and regaining trust and social cohesion.

This Women’s Month, UNDP is one with the BWC in shining the spotlight on Bangsamoro women who serve as active contributors and claimholders to peace and development in Bangsamoro communities. We give recognition to their stories of struggle, hope, resilience, and empowerment as they work and advocate for their aspirations for an inclusive and peaceful society for all. “We stand together with them in making CHANGE work for Bangsamoro women” and commit to encourage and accompany Bangsamoro women in claiming their stakes and assuming their roles as peacebuilders and leaders in their respective fields.

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This OpEd was jointly penned for the commemoration of National Women's Month 2022.