Three Women Expanding Gender Equality in Mindanao
Story & Photos by Denise Rafaeli Cadorniga
Positive peace is strengthened when empowered women are involved in the work of their communities. However, according to UN Women, we find ourselves in a world where it could take another 300 years to achieve gender equality at the current rate of advancement.
In Mindanao, Philippines, Nonviolent Peaceforce has been engaged in a project called “Women-IMPACT” that increases the meaningful participation of women in conflict transformation initiatives.
Recently, Karen Davila, a journalist and volunteer for UN Women (a funder of this project, along with the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund), interviewed three women working tirelessly for these equal rights and opportunities, and peace in their communities. Read or watch below for a behind-the-scenes look at each of these women leaders.
Raisah Domalondong, Early Warning/Early Response (EWER) Monitor & President
In Lanao del Norte, a young girl named Raisah grew up as the daughter of a MILF base commander. As a child, her parents didn't allow her to play outside or join any outdoor activities because they feared for her safety.
Following several training sessions with NP, she has become one of the leading Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB) representatives in her community of Tangkal. Raisah now acts as president of a group of Early Warning Early Response (EWER) Monitors organized by the Women-IMPACT Project, which is made up of 20 women and 5 men.
Raisah’s heart is full of gratitude for NP’s support and guidance. When speaking with Karen Davila, she shared,
“On behalf of BIWAB and as the president of the local EWERs association, we express our heartfelt gratitude and we will never forget that NP has become part of our lives because we have learned so much. I hope NP can help many communities like ours. Thank you for guiding us, for the approach, and for the knowledge you shared with us.”
"In be haft of BIWAB and president tangcal kalilintad EWERs association taos puso kaming nagpapasalamat nd namin malilimutan naging bahagi kau ng buhay namin kc marame kaming natutunan sa inyo sana marame pa kaung matolongan na tulad namin salamat sa pag guide,pag approach, pag share ng mga knowledge niu sa amin.”
Maimona Macapaar, Peace Champion*
Within the bustling province of Lanao del Norte is another dynamic leader. Maimona Macapaar works daily to advocate for the voices of women to be heard, especially within the intersections of faith and peacebuilding. Maimona has also played a big role in strengthening relationships with local Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and community-led groups, such as between Nonviolent Peaceforce and a local muti-faith CSO, Pakigdait.
As a regular participant in NP trainings, she has found our course materials to be imperative in supporting her mission to advocate for the rights of women.
Through Pakigdait’s Women of Faith Project, Maimona has become an influential peace adviser in Lanao del Norte to Abdullah "Bravo" Macapaar, the top MILF commander leading the North Western Mindanao Front.
Daphne Iris Macatimbol, Gender Advisor, NP Philippines
Daphne Macatimbol has been part of our Philippines team for many years, she can still recall working with hostage survivors in Marawi back in 2018. Her background as a peacebuilder for over 10 years has made her well-versed in topics like gender sensitivity, children's and women’s rights, culture sensitivity in conflict resolution, and gender-based violence (GBV). Daphne’s extensive experience brings a valuable perspective to Women-IMPACT training and activities. As a Gender Advisor, Daphne’s guidance has supported members of BIWAB, like Raisah, to share their voices and become active leaders in their communities. In fact, her skills have helped BIWAB combatants transition into civilians and Gender Peace Champions.
“Through the Women-IMPACT’s Project supported by UN Women, we teach participants about their rights. We also teach them how to protect their rights with their fellow women. When their rights have been violated, we teach them how to move forward with and how to engage in conversations with community members that disregard women’s rights. That’s what we teach our fellow communities. We see all community members as agents with the capacity to protect the rights of their fellow women.”
Continued Hope for Peace
Davila’s interviews with each of the women made one thing clear—women are an important link in unlocking the full potential of society. When women are included we see clearly how much our future prospects for peace depend on their involvement, leadership, and contributions.
Raisah and Maiomana are one of many beneficiaries and training participants of the Women- IMPACT Project or Women ex-combatants Increasing their Meaningful Participants in Advocacy and Conflict Transformation Initiatives. Funded by UN Women and UN Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF). Women- IMPACT is being implemented in the province of Basilan and Lanao del Norte to increase the participation and decision making of women in conflict prevention processes and response, to increase women’s participation in their networks in policy advocacy, and improving their organisational capacity to advance women’s role in local and peace security initiatives. * (not under PGPC but trained under EU project, with Pakadit)