Advocates celebrate International Women’s Day with dialogue on women’s health, peace and development

March 11, 2019

Empower women, ensure their participation in peacebuilding and development.

This was the call of the constituents, advocates, stakeholders, and participants from five provinces of ARMM that gathered together in the recently-concluded regional dialogue organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).

The dialogue came after the historic ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, creating the new Bangsamoro region. It is in this context that this dialogue discusses the crucial link between women empowerment and the realization of lasting peace in the region. It is comprised of three plenary sessions and one talk show that explored the interrelatedness on women’s health and rights, peace, and development.

Among the highlights of the dialogue is the discussion on the importance of fulfilling women’s rights in peacebuilding as well as in other issues confronting the region. Resource speakers coming from different groups and government agencies emphasized the need to adopt a gender-sensitive lens whenever tackling peace and security issues and the need to engage women in conflict situations as they are the ones who suffer the most in times of conflict.

“Women are burdened with caring for the rest of the family members, further making their reproductive role more burdensome,” said Ms. Noraida Abo of UNYPhil-Women.

In line with this, partners from the BARMM shared their experiences and best practices in providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in the region especially in times of conflict. Some of these good practices include raising public awareness on issues such as family planning, SRH, and gender-based violence, distributing IEC materials, ensuring public participation, training and capacitating students and Muslim religious leaders as well as local health service providers, providing RH-related services, and establishing hotline numbers.

Moreover, in the context of the new Bangsamoro government, the panelists also touched upon the significance of this new government set-up in providing SRH-related services in the region and the opportunities that advocates can take advantage of in mainstreaming women’s rights and in ensuring that these rights are being upheld and respected.

“There is a provision in the BOL saying that there should be women’s representation in the decision-making and policy-determining bodies in the Bangsamoro government… and that there should be mechanisms for consultation with women and other marginalized groups,” said Hon. Raissa Jajurie of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

The panelists of the talk show, which included Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Atty. Ishak Mastura, and Ms. Akrima Arap, also reminded everyone the significance of this new government which could possibly be replicated by other regions as well as the challenges that may confront it as the transition moves forward. While being skeptical about the prospects of a federal set-up for the country, Rep. Baguilat mentioned that the developments that will happen in the region could provide support for or against President Duterte’s federalism proposal.

A plenary session was also held to discuss key issues concerning adolescent reproductive health and why investing in young people’s health is crucial in achieving development. Ms. Janette Dimakuta of DOH-BARMM presented some data on the situation of adolescents in the country and two youth leaders from Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur were present to provide their personal experiences on the issues confronting their peers and to forward their call against some practices like child labor and child marriage (CEFM) that hinder their genuine growth and development.

“We, the children, are too young to get married,” said Ms. Fatima Sugadol, a youth leader from Maguindanao.

Participants of the dialogue also identified key concerns in SRH and VAWG in their respective provinces and the actions that they can do to address them in a workshop session aimed to discuss possible scenarios after the ratification of BOL and to propose an action plan on mainstreaming women and girls’ rights in BARMM.

The regional dialogue concluded with a symbolic action in solidarity with the celebration of International Women’s Day.

PLCPD, together with its partners from ARCHES and Creating Spaces projects, organized a two-day dialogue themed “Closing gaps, building bridges: A regional dialogue on women’s health and rights, peace, and development”. It was held on March 7-8, 2019 in at the Em Manor Hotel, Cotabato City. This is the fourth installment in a five-dialogue series, each dialogue dedicated to discussing the most pressing issues affecting RH concerns at the time. The first two national dialogues, held in March and in August 2017, discussed roadblocks to the full implementation of the RH Law, including the legal battle for family planning, financing, and local capacities to implement the law, among others. In August 2018, the first of two regional dialogues to be held in the ARMM focused on best practices and success stories in implementing the law in the region, despite these challenges. A special session on adolescent reproductive health concerns, particularly child marriage, was for the first time convened among various sectors

This project is made possible by the support of the European Union, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam sa Pilipinas, and Global Affairs Canada.