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Among the participants were community women leaders, indigenous women leaders, student leaders, out of school youth leaders, governmental and non-governmental representatives, civil society organizations, academe, women police, and media practitioners.

The activity was conceptualized to discuss and address the emerging security issues in the region affecting women. It was a joint venture of the project EnPolD Bangsamoro of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, CONVENIO and A3B, inviting potential women leaders to come together to come-up a platform of dialogue and its continuing process.

Mr. Vandrazel M. Birowa, project coordinator of ZABIDA-IAG EnPolD Bangsamoro Project presented a brief rationale of the activity. He stressed that the two-day session will provide an avenue for discussion of women issues of violence..

The opening message was addressed by Dr. Grace Rebollos of ZABIDA. “El mundo ta bira na pies del maga nana”, an excerpt from Dr. Grace emphasizing the enormous importance of the role of women in society as she started her message.

“Women are facing many issues”, said Dr. Rebollos. She stressed that the psycho-social and political struggles of women and the continuing poverty and marginalization of peoples impacted from the continuous conflict and violence in Mindanao but women remain resilient and adept at pushing for peace and transformation to move forward in the wake of conflict and violence.

Dr. Grace emphasized the need for dialogue on many emerging social problems and the need to adequately respond.

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Women Issues as Peace Issues

Atty. Cristina Jimenez from the Commission on Human Rights presented various audio visual emphasizing the women’s strengths and their special power, struggles and empowerment, equal rights and treatment, recognition of women’s rights, education and the protection of young girls against abuse including trafficking and prostitution.

The following are crucial women and human rights issues highlighted by Atty. Jimenez during her talk:

• The most prevalent human rights violation that cuts across all sectors of society -- even the rich and highly educated - is violence against women (VAW).
• Human trafficking one of the most urgent and widespread human rights issues affecting young girls and women.
• Rural Indigenous and Moro Women are the most marginalized in Philippine society because they are unreachable by government in terms of access to education, medical services and basic necessities and frequently caught in the crossfire between insurgents, bandits and the military.
• Social and cultural rights and practices that are bound by the Code of Islamic Laws, which allows polygamy, early and arranged marriages.
• Incest a cultural practice: Sama Badjao cultural practice on marriage (Sama women before wedding day must have sexual intercourse with fathers).
• Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK)-
• Disparity in education and healthcare.

The activity also highlighted the experiences and personal narratives of women from all different walks of life by narrating their stories as victims and oppressed of the Mindanao Peace and Security Issues, and their humble works and efforts to change the narratives of hostilities in Mindanao.

Their narratives can teach a lesson, inspire and enlighten women, open a dialogue and pass information. With one participant sharing, “With our stories of courage, we connect both with other people and with our own inner voices,” their narratives are the real power to illuminate a social problem and create social change.