Integrating feminine leadership into one’s identity is particularly difficult among women in BARMM region where credibility is established in a culture that privileges patriarchal or masculinist authority. Dominant perceptions and misconceptions still are prevalent that women are not cut out for leadership. And so hearing personal experiences of women leaders challenging the conventional ways of leadership are always beautiful, invigorating, and inspirational. There is no scarcity in women leaders, but there exists an environment that stifles their potentials. 

Last May 16-19 the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, through its Grassroots Learning Hub project, conducted the 4-day Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training held in Eden Nature Park and Resort. It was a convention of both seasoned and emerging women leaders from the Moro and IP communities in BARMM region. The participants are partners of MPC, mainly, from Bangsamoro Free Election Movement (BFEM), Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc. (MWDCC), UNYPAD, Social Welfare Committee (SWC), Women’s Organization of Rajah Mamalu Descendants (WORMD), Indigenous Women Research Center (IWRC), and Bantay Ceasefire.

The training consisted of various topics about Gender Concepts and Feminist Leadership, Situational Analysis of Women Political Participation during the Bangsamoro Transition Period, Advocacy and Lobby Skills, Effective Communication and Public Speaking.

They have also watched two videos, one was Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising Campaign, and second was Manal Omar’s Women at the Negotiating Table. Both videos showed how women leaders can embrace their own femininity in leadership. 

The women leaders were able to practice their skills and knowledge on the following topics through a practical exercise in conducting press conference and lobbying session. Many legitimate questions aroused during the two sessions mainly concerning the status of the IP Code, Electoral Code, situation of communities outside the Bangsamoro region, intensification of women’s political participation in all levels of government, peace dividends, and the role of CSOs in the transition period among others. The women leaders showed their knowledge in the BARMM issues and skills in interpolating with the media and BTA members in these practical exercises.

The MPC acknowledges that more than acquiring new skills and having more knowledge in social issues within BARMM is not sufficient. The learning must be coupled with a growing sense of feminine identity as a leader and that they must anchor their leadership purpose in potentials and strengths they already possessed as women. The Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training is not the beginning of the process of materializing this vision, but this is a continuation of the many years that the MPC, together with its partners have built an environment that overcomes barriers to women’s leadership and participation.