Addressing gender-based violence (3)
COTABATO CITY — At the culmination of the month-long celebration of Women’s Month here, the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC) spearheaded a forum where the different ministries, agencies, and offices of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) presented their respective gender and development (GAD) plans and budgets for next year and beyond. Among the programs identified were the usual awareness-raising on gender issues, gender and development mainstreaming, continuous capacity-building, and training among many others. These plans and programs will be an integral part in the regional guidelines to address the socioeconomic welfare of the women in the region.
In her message, Hadja Bainon Karon, chair of the BWC, and member of the interim Parliament (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) went beyond what the different ministries and agencies identified as requisites for creating a more gender-fair BARMM, now and in the future. She noted that this year’s theme of the women’s month celebration, “We make change work for Bangsamoro women,” is a resounding “call for gender-balance in leadership and decision-making, inclusion of women’s concerns in leadership platforms and government’s development agenda, and capacitating and preparing women to reach their ambitions.”
Civil society organizations, including community-based groups like the Sigay nu mga Babay Association from Barangay Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, were represented in the region-wide forum. The president of the association, Guiamela Sayutin, was quite overwhelmed that her organization was made part of important gatherings like what happened last March 30. She said women in the conflict-ridden parts of the so-called SPMS (Salbu, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Shariff Aguak, including Shariff Saydona Mustapha) already feel they are included in efforts to uplift their lives and recognize their important role in the development of their respective communities.
Barangay Dapiawan is among the many localities in the province of Maguindanao that have seen recurrent violent armed conflict due to rido (vengeance) fighting among political clans contesting for local political power, and spillovers of vertical conflicts between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and rebel groups in the past, and now against members of extremist groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. On top of these, there are the intermittent armed encounters between the Philippine National Police and members of nefarious groups who pass through the barangay toward their lairs deep in the SPMS box.
Peace and security for this part of Maguindanao have been constantly challenged, and in times of conflicts when families need to flee to safer grounds, it is always the women who bear the brunt of preserving their families’ well-being amid difficult times. They have to ensure this happens even in places where sources of their traditional social protection are no longer readily available.
And this is where gender issues and concerns have to go beyond just the inclusion of women’s groups in forums and in providing them some sources of livelihood to alleviate them from poverty and help them cope with additional challenges of being exposed to conflict and the health crisis brought about by the pandemic.
Addressing gender-based violence, in whatever form, as the fatwa has identified, should be at the forefront of any GAD plans and programs since development cannot proceed. In these contexts, it is the women and girls who are always put at risk, given the precarious peace and security situation in some parts of the region.
Karon stressed the pivotal role of women in peace and development efforts in the region. She exhorted the audience, especially representatives of the regional ministries and offices in the region with these parting words: “Let us be instruments in ensuring that women get half of the plate, that women’s role and contribution as active agents of peace and development are on the mainstream and not on the sidelines.”
Let Karon’s words reverberate through the halls of the different ministries and offices of the BARMM, and make these words the springboard for much-needed action, to go beyond just issuing the fatwa. Those who have been found to have committed all forms of gender-based violence must be meted the appropriate sanctions or punitive action.
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