A convenor of a non-governmental organization of Filipinos of mostly Muslim heritage on Monday expressed that Muslim women “are largely excluded from formal peace talks.”
Amina Rasul of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID), who was recently recognized as “Mindanao peace champion” by the United Nations (UN)-sponsored Action for Conflict Transformation (ACT) for Peace Programme, aired this view as the peace processes with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) both gain traction this week.
”While many peace experts agree that sustainable peace requires the participation of women at all stages of the peace process, they have been largely excluded from formal peace talks,” said Rasul, a Harvard-educated Muslim woman.
She noted that while many women have been appointed peace adviser and sat in government peace panels, "we are wondering what role do Muslim women play in the fashioning of peace in Muslim Mindanao?"
She said this question will be discussed in a gathering of Muslim women religious scholars ("aleemat" in Arabic) and civil society leaders in the four-day National Conference of Muslim Women Peace Advocates in Zamboanga City which started on Monday (February 7).
PCID and the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc. organized the conference for Noorus Salam, a network of aleemat and Muslim women civil society leaders that was formed last year.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Teresita Deles, Mindanao Development Authority Chair Luwalhati Antonino, Chair Loreta Ann Rosales of the Commission on Human Rights, Irene Santiago of the Mindanao Commission on Women, Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, Aida Jean Manipon of UN Women-Philippines, Aurora de Dios of Miriam College, Usec. Yolanda Quijano of the Department of Education, and Norma Salcedo of the Literacy Coordinating Council were expected to join 150 other participants.
Women peace advocates from Southeast Asia are also attending the conference, according to Rasul.
Zarina Nalla, the policy and project development consultant of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, and Lily Zakiyah Munir, founder and director of Center for Pesantren (Islamic Boarding School) and Democracy Studies in Indonesia are expected to share their experiences in involving women in peace building.
Four parallel workshops were organized focusing on different themes: UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the responsibility to protect (R2P), human trafficking, preventive health care and literacy.
Women held key posts in peace talks of past and present. Deles is the current peace adviser and Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer sits in the government panel for the MILF.
The previous Peace Adviser was Anabelle Abaya. Irene Santiago, another Mindanao peace champion, had been part of the government panel in the negotiations with the MILF.