‘Building back better’ a gender-fair BARMM
“Building back better” is associated with participatory and innovative approaches in rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities massively destroyed by natural disasters or violent armed conflicts.
The concept was promoted in a book, “Building Back Better — Delivering people-centered housing reconstruction at scale,” published in 2010 by Practical Action Publishing Ltd in the United Kingdom. Authors of articles in the book argue that people-centered rehabilitation and reconstruction can reduce vulnerabilities of communities and promote their resilience. Designs for reconstruction of both tangible and intangible social assets based on people’s skills and their ideas of how they chart their own development in the future, can lead to “better” structures, both physical and social.
Disasters and violent conflicts transform erstwhile vibrant and cohesive communities into sordid images of helplessness and discord, almost duplicating those of wastelands and squalid milieus. But such contexts provide golden opportunities to “reconstruct” societies better: not to go back to old ways of building structures and instead innovating on building designs to make housing and other vital infrastructures resilient to typhoons and earthquakes.
In the social realm, this means deconstructing traditional power relations to identify elements that can nurture inclusion and social harmony, thus creating environments favorable for making, keeping and building inclusive, durable peace.
Such process includes breaking down old gender power relations and replacing them with a new policy regime that allows for more gender-fair and gender-equitable relations in society. Women should transcend being mere voters — they should be provided meaningful platforms for asserting voice and agency. Working collaboratively with their male counterparts, women can shape public policies and make crucial decisions toward making governance more inclusive and equitable for all.
Improving regional governance through changes in gender power relations is most crucial now, as the creation of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) looms large. Last week, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was deemed ratified with the preponderance of “Yes” to BOL votes.
Starting in 2016, UN Women Philippines, in collaboration with several women organizations in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, conducted a series of workshops to build capacities of grassroots women leaders and enable them to participate actively in regional governance in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, as it was known then. In these workshops, women leaders learned basic skills in communications and advocacy work that enabled them to do the needed spadework among non-Bangsamoro and diaspora communities in different parts of the country in preparation for a forthcoming new Bangsamoro government.
Then as now, women in the Bangsamoro have persistently worked to create the needed changes in the envisioned new regional structure. Such zeal should be put to good use in creating a more inclusive, equitable and gender-fair BARMM.
What the UN Women, its civil society partners and other members of the international donor community have started should be sustained to create a “better” governance structure in the BARMM.
“Women hold half the sky,” says an ancient Chinese proverb. Neglecting half the sky is tantamount to going back to old ways of structuring society along patriarchy, of rigid binaries of male and female roles, of sex discrimination and of traditional feudalistic, rent-seeking politics.
More importantly, we want to see that a built-back-better, gender-fair BARMM will set an example to all male officials of the country, especially the national leadership, in changing mindsets about how women should be treated or regarded. Women should not be the subjects of rape jokes, of misogynistic remarks, and of chilling directives like ordering soldiers to shoot the vaginas of female New People’s Army rebels.
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