Protecting women’s health and rights is crucial to peace and development – regional dialogue

Since 2017, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and its partners in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have organized three national and regional dialogues that provide a platform for duty-bearers and stakeholders to discuss issues and propose collective recommendations to contribute to the fulfilment of Filipinos’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Now in its fourth installment, this dialogue brings together participants from five different provinces in the Bangsamoro region to explore the interrelatedness of fulfilling women’s health and rights, women empowerment and closing gender gaps, and the achievement of peace, security, and development.

The Reproductive Health Law is a landmark legislation that aims to protect the health and lives of mothers and their children through the provision of services and information on reproductive health, among others. However, hampered by challenges like legal barriers, lack of adequate funding and willingness of some LGUs to implement the law, and lack of public knowledge and awareness, the full implementation of the law has not yet been realized, more than six years after its enactment.

On the other hand, despite being one of the best performing countries in terms of gender equality due to the presence of various measures promoting it, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is still rampant and widely normalized in the Philippines until today. Child marriage, for instance, is one example of this problem present in the country that compromises the safety and development of its women and girls.

Given these formidable challenges, PLCPD optimistically views the recent ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law as a milestone event and an opportunity to advance its advocacies specifically on gender equality and women’s health and rights in the newly-formed transitional government. It is an opportune moment for the advocates to accelerate the implementation of existing policies and to explore possible programs and policies that would potentially address the issues concerning SRHR and gender inequality. In line with that, PLCPD calls for the transitional government to uphold rights of the women and to provide equal opportunity for them as the persistence of gender gaps may detrimentally affect the efforts to achieve peace, security and development.

The dialogue also coincides with the celebration of International Women’s Day. PLCPD, through this dialogue, hopes to explore the crucial link between women empowerment and the achievement of lasting peace in the region. Many studies have shown that participation of women in conflict resolution increases the probability of a lasting peace agreement. International instruments have also recognized and reaffirmed the important role of women in these peace processes.

This dialogue aims to produce a call to action for complementing national-level advocacy and for advancing relevant legislation at the regional level and an action plan for mainstreaming women and girls’ rights and reproductive health in the BARMM which advocates can use as guides in collectively pushing for the advancement of their goals.

It is hoped that stakeholders will be given a platform to present the agenda to the BARMM and that the output can effectively be transmitted to the region’s newly-appointed leaders and be converted to concrete policies and programs. Working together, advocates and leaders can come up with measures to achieve full realization of SRHR of all and to eliminate of all forms of violence against women and girls, and consequently, to achieve lasting peace and development in the region.