OPINION: Women an Essential Part of Peace-Building

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

“There will be no significant rehabilitation or reconstruction of war-torn societies without women,” the Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW) and the Mothers for Peace Movement said in a statement hailing the recent signing of the “Framework Agreement.” The agreement between the government and the MILF paves the way for the creation of the “Bangsamoro” that will take the place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and for the reign of peace in Mindanao.

In addition, the women's groups hailed the “critical roles played by women members of the peace panel and technical committees who were instrumental in the crafting of this historic agreement.” The groups also commended “the many Bangsamoro women who have relentlessly pursued diverse and creative ways to end the conflict and push for a peace agreement that would include their meaningful participation in the creation of a new entity for their people.”

A particular demand of the MCW and Mothers for Peace was that women representatives should be appointed to the 15-member Transition Committee (Transcom) that will be formed and will oversee the establishment of the Bangsamoro by 2016.

Signed by Irene M. Santiago, chair emerita and CEO of the MCW and convenor of the Mothers for Peace Movement, the statement aired additional demands it deemed necessary in the “post-conflict” period: enact special protocols governing women's participation and gender equality that shall form part of the peace agreement; empower women to be the drivers of economic growth by putting appropriate resources in their hands quickly; and create mechanisms to ensure the full implementation of UN SCR 1325 and 1820 that would guarantee protection of women in conflict areas, promotion of human rights, and participation of women in all levels of decision-making in the peace process.
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The MCW is an NGO composed of women leaders, most of them based in Mindanao, whose mission is “to influence public policy and public opinion.”

With the Mothers for Peace, the group said it is “committed to support the Bangsamoro political entity,” while asserting that “women's voices are necessary in peace-building not only because women and their children are victims of war but also because women can provide perspectives on how broken relationships may be restored and healed, and how resources may be allocated to address unjust political, economic and social structures that are at the root of the Mindanao conflict.”

On quite another aspect of “women's participation” in the immediate post-conflict period, now is the time to ensure that more women, including Muslim women, become active in the task of peacekeeping and law enforcement both in Bangsamoro and the rest of Mindanao.
In a conversation with police director Lina Sarmiento, she mentioned that now is the time for speeded-up recruitment of young Muslim women to enlist in the police and military force, as well as to enroll in the PNP Academy or the Philippine Military Academy.

“Now is the time for them to start training for active duty,” Sarmiento declared, saying that by the time the Bangsamoro is created, there will be an urgent need for a corps of women officers ready to assume decision-making duties in the new political entity.

As some have observed, today's model of law enforcement and peacekeeping demands not so much brawn (although that may still be needed from time to time) as the ability to talk one's way through a potential conflict, resolving with words and with dialogue what would otherwise be settled by the use of arms and violence. And as men have long promoted the stereotype, if there is one thing women are good at, it's talking. But hey, if conflicts can be settled by talking instead of shooting, maiming and killing, so much the better!
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Found this reflection on “peace,” written by the late Blessed Pope John Paul II, in, of all places, the menu folder of the restaurant managed by the nuns of “L'eau Vive in Asia.”

L'eau Vive (or living waters) is an international order of religious women. The order has been in the country since the late 1970s, running their French-themed restaurant in Paco as their form of “witness” and “outreach.” If I may diverge, my husband and I began patronizing the restaurant even before we got married, but returned to it only recently. We found the same quality of food that made L'eau Vive such a byword in the local restaurant scene, but at very reasonable prices. Do yourself a favor and drop by soon!

To return to the late Pope's message of peace, I found it inspiring and challenging, particularly in this time of our nation's history. May these words of JPII lead us to meaningful reflection on just how “peace” can be achieved, and what it demands:
“Construct peace in Love. Peace has its dimensions and its demands. What does this signify in practice? How can peace become the reality of our lives, the reality of our world? It is often repeated:

• if you desire Peace, work for justice
• if you desire Peace, proclaim the truth
• if you desire Peace ‘Do for others what you want them to do for you.'

“In a word, if you desire Peace you must love: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.'

“All of these demand a personal effort and discipline. It implies that you accept yourself and others as creatures of God, as children of God, dependent human beings, for our happiness is a law of God that is His plan on our lives. In harmony with ourselves, you will find strength and union. You will find the peace of Christ.”