Women gather to share their experiences and lessons. 

By: Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan, NP Philippines 

Between January and February, Nonviolent Peaceforce collaborated with South Thailand’s Network of Civic Women for Peace and the Center for Southeast Asian Maritime States Studies to hold a series of online conversations to connect women from the Bangsamoro communities in MindanaoPhilippines  and Southern Thailand.

Both groups of women live in some of the most conflict-affected areas in Southeast Asia.  In the Bangsamoro Autonomous  Region of the Philippines, thousands of people have been displaced as a result of decades-long conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).Similarly in Southern Thailand, civilians have experienced more than half a century of violence.

Though they are connected by their experiences, historically they have been isolated from each other and excluded from formal peace processes—until now.  As a supporter of NP, you know that learning from each other is central to the work that we do. With these recent conversationsthe groups of women from Mindanao and Southern Thailand have been able to exchange experiences, lessons, and good practices. Together, they are increasing women’s participation in peace processes and strengthening women’s agency in peace and security. 

Even with the online format, the listening sessions were an opportunity for powerful learning and exchange.  During the first session on January 23, the  women felt inspired after hearing Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer share her experience during peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). As the former Chief Negotiation for the Philippine Government, Prof Miriam Coronel-Ferrer highlighted the important role that civil society played as a permanent and indispensable third-party

“Civil society brings in the voices of women,” she shared.“And women’s participation has a unique contribution in ensuring an inclusive and sustainable peace agreement.”  

Ms. Noraida Abu, the founder and Executive Director of United Youth of the Philippines (UNYPhil) Women’s chapter, shared her experiences in organizing grassroots women to take an active role in the Bangsamoro peace process.

In addition to hearing from recognized leaders, it is crucial that the women learn from each otherThe women from Mindanao shared practical tips and tools during the learning session, specifically related to advocacy, campaigning and dialogues. The women from Southern Thailand left with renewed energy, resolving to advocate for women’s representation in the formal peace negotiations between the Thai government and the separatist movement.  

Three notable women from Bangsamoro were invited to share their experiences with the group: Ms. Yasmin Busaran-Lao (a civil society woman leader who served as a former government peace panel member for peace talks with the MILF), Rufa Cagoco-Guiam (a gender-expert and former professor of Mindanao State University), and Dayang Karna Bahidjan (a community organizer-researcher and women, peace and security advocate). Three notable women from Bangsamoro were invited to share their experiences with the group: Ms. Yasmin Busaran-Lao (a civil society woman leader who served as a former government peace panel member for peace talks with the MILF), Rufa Cagoco-Guiam (a gender-expert and former professor of Mindanao State University), and Dayang Karna Bahidjan (a community organizer-researcher and women, peace and security advocate).  

The experience was so powerful for the participants that they requested more time to share and learn. As a follow-up to the first learning session, Nonviolent Peaceforce organized an online event to promote deeper exchange and sharing between the women from Mindanao and Southern Thailand on their empowerment experiences. From community organizers to gender experts to professors, the listening session brought together diverse voices and experiences.Strength comes in numbers and at NP we believe that convening these listening sessions is a critical part of building stronger and more inclusive peace processes.

* * * 

This work was made possible with support from Canada Fund for Local Initiatives in the ASEAN and generous supporters like you. With your support, Nonviolent Peaceforce can continue to facilitate knowledge-sharing between civilians working for peace and ensure that all voices are heard in the peace process.  

The online activity is also made possible with venue hosting at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani and in coordination with the Center for Southeast Asian Maritime States Studies and the Network of Civic Women for Peace in South Thailand. 

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