The Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) has been currently working inside and outside the Bangsamoro region, creating programs that are specifically tailored to the needs of its partner network organizations and communities, and most importantly, to women and ensuring that they possess significant parts of every one of its programs. MPC has been engaging with Bangsamoro women leaders in areas where democracy has been nascent if not more or less established.
The MPC’s Grassroots Learning Hub project funded by the USAID and Save the Children- Philippines’ through its CSO2 small grant has dedicated a component addressing women’s political participation and leadership. The Grassroots Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Hub which envisioned helping women acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to participate meaningfully in all aspects of the political process in the current Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) transition period.
Formally launched in February of this year, this program has been MPC’s response to the calls of its partner network organizations for trainings that will equip them in complementing current efforts of the interim government to ensure that the institutional reforms agreed upon in the peace agreement will be fully implemented.
Bangsamoro women’s political participation and representation have been extremely important in enabling the BARMM government. And with the extension of the transition period, women more than ever need to be engaged in advocacy works, in movements, and campaigns that will address their issues and concerns.
Hasna Arap: Paving the way for more young women in the political arena
“Ang pinaka gusto ko sa lahat sa Grassroots Learning Hub ay talagang may actual application na nangyayari. Kung baga di kami nakakulong sa mga theories lang o kung ano man ang natutunan namin sa mga discussions. Talagang nadadala namin sa actual lobby work at sa wider audience gaya ng ginawa naming radio guesting sa BMN (Bangsamoro Media Network). First time kong mag lobby work at napakahalagang natutunan ko ang proseso nito para maipaabot ang mga issues sa kumunidad. Nababahagi ko din sa mga activities ko sa communities ang mga pag-aaral namin sa electoral code and IP code, kaya mas alam ko na ngayon kung ano ang mga konteksto ng mga priority codes na ito.
At dahil isa akong youth leader, mahalaga sa akin na makasama ko ang akin mga ‘kaka’ na mga women leaders din sa mga partner organizations ng MPC. Madami akong natutunan sa kanila at kasama sila sa nag guide sa akin. Maliit ang tingin sa voices ng mga youth, pero through this program, mas napalawak pa ang perspectives ko sa mga issues ng BARMM.”
Hasna is one of the 15 fellows of the Women Leadership Program of the Grassroots Learning Hub. Her organization, the Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc. (MWDECC) has been a partner of MPC for a long time.
According to Hasna, what she has found interesting about the program is that the women were really provided with spaces or opportunities to influence in all aspect of political process both in the community and the parliament. And that the knowledge and skills acquired in the workshops and mentoring sessions have not been limited in the discussions with fellow women leaders and mentors. Because of the added information she has gotten from the study sessions, she has meaningfully taken part in community activities and make valuable contribution in the discussion of matters related to the IP code and electoral code.
It was also her first time to lobby in a key ministry office in the BARMM and she was happy to be able to advocate on matters of policy- which for her is an important facet of civic and political life. The radio guesting was also a first for Hasna. For her it is important to be provided with an avenue that serves as a public forum for the discussion of important issues. Being the host of the radio guesting, she was able to balance her opinion with the actual experiences and insights shared by the guests.
Hasna mentioned that it has been a valuable experience for her to be with the senior women leaders of the MPC’s partner networks because of their shared experiences and insights from doing political works. The Grassroots Learning Hub’s Women Leadership and Political Participation Program introduced several initiatives such as mentoring and practicum to connect political and civic-minded women and help them network across time and place.
Leonora Mokudef: from hinterlands to ministry offices
“Importante sa akin na napaihayag ko ang mga importanteng concerns sa IP code. Ang Grassroots Learning Hub ay nagsilbing linya upang maiparating namin ang mga tanong galing sa mga tao sa kumunidad doon sa mga ministry. First time ko din na ma interview sa radio, at hindi ito biro. Parang nag-aalangan pa ako noon magsalita pero dahil sa hub, na train ako kung paano pag-usapan ang aming mga issue at nabigyan ako ng lakas ng loob. Napakahalaga sa aking mamulat sa proseso ng lobby work para mapaabot ang isang issue. Ang mga bagong natutunan galing sa mga mentoring at workshops ay nababahagi din sa aming mga kumunidad.”
Leonora Mokudef, a Teduray and a board member of the Indigenous Women’s Research Center (IWRC), an NGO based in South Upi, Province of Maguindanao. For her, the Grassroots Learning Hub has served as the direct line that connected them to the important BARMM government offices.
Difficulties in the mobility and the limited network support that encourage political participation have been common problems expressed by Leonora and her fellow IPs. She has felt that women IPs are isolated from the political works in BARMM because of the scarcity of avenues where they can get information about current status of the IP code.
Because they were trained in lobbying, Leonora and the rest of the women leaders were able to represent the interests of their fellows IPs who do not have the opportunity or access to personally ask about the status of the IP code. During the lobby work, Leonora and the rest of the women IPs had the opportunity to talk to Minister Melanio Ulama of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs and asked about the IP code. More importantly, Leonora was able to express the necessity for the IP code to reflect the fundamental condition for women’s interests to be taken account for.
The Grassroots Learning Hub has brought together diverse set of mentors who has been dedicated to helping women increase their participation in all aspects of political process by teaching wide range of strategies. From public speaking, writing media briefs, organizing press conferences, to lobbying- the women leaders were taught how to build an understanding of the people they are talking to and how to get the commitment of the government leaders and the general public in what they say.
Leonora has become aware of the power of words in engaging genuine dialogue and in reducing misunderstandings of certain political and community issues.
Maryann Dela Torre: an effective voice, navigating the web of formal and informal institutions
“Ang women’s political participation ay isa sa mga kailangan upang mapaniguro ang gender equality at genuine democracy dahil it facilitates women sa pampublikong paggawa ng decision at isang paraan in ensuring better accountability to women. Kaya isa sa mga kasanayan na aming ginawa ay ang maka experience ng pag lobby ng mga women leaders, creating a snowball effect in the BARMM. Dahil ang mga kababaihan ay kabahagi sa pag create ng greater impact sa BARMM. I am honored to be with the fello women leaders from different organization who were well-trained by MPC na willing makipag collaborate sa lahat ng horizontal sectors dahil yun ay pagpapatunay na nababahagi namin ang mga skills at knowledge na nakuha namin sa mga training.”
Maryann Dela Torre is the current provincial chairwoman of the UNYPAD (United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc.) in North Cotabato Cluster 4. During informal discussions, Maryann often shared about how Bangsamoro women overwhelmingly still have limited access to positions of leadership.
Because of the training and mentoring component of the program, Maryann and the women leaders have been assisted and trained in how to effectively participate in political processes. The program informed the women leaders of their civic rights while providing training on lobbying, how to do an impactful public speech, and during the study sessions, identify community and policy issues where there is less equitable inclusion of women.
To amplify women’s policy priorities, the women leaders identified government offices and officials for their lobbying work. Maryann has sent letters to government offices and has been rejected three times. But this hasn’t deterred her and the rest of the women leaders from persistently coordinating and communicating with the executives assistants of the BARMM government offices. Maryann and Samira, another woman leader, were able to secure the schedule of Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo last September 12, 2022 for a brief meeting. They have waited more than three hours in his office, almost losing hope that they will be spared some time given that there have been other visitors who wished to meet the minister. Finally, the executive assistant has ushered them into Minister Sinarimbo’s office where he obliged. During this meeting, Maryann thanked Atty. Naguib for the valuable time and information he has given to them and that she is committed to sharing what they have discussed that afternoon to the communities and to her organization.
MPC: continuously working for strengthening women’s political leadership and public life
The successes of the women leaders of the Grassroots Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Hub within the first phase of its implementation has been promising in helping women exercise influence and/or occupy decision-making roles. Having more women in the decision-making forums ahs given an assurance of a more gender-responsive laws and policies.
As MPC recently concluded the first phase of the Grassroots Learning Hub, it will continue to harness the power of women’s collective voices as instruments in negotiating transformative changes in public and civic spheres through its programs.