Empowering women for peace and development

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First of three-part treatise. The Times Op-Ed Editor has allowed the eccentric numbering of every paragraph because seems to be the author’s style to vest the article with the aura of a diplomatic presentation or a some kind of an official document.

Part I: Rationale and moralities
1. For all the problems that ail the Philippine nation, the women may very well be the answer.

2. A former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan states in his Millennium Report, “We the Peoples – the Role of the UN in the 21st Century” in 2000, that internal conflicts are normally brought about by unequal distribution of economic wealth; lack of democratic governance and lack of respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities. To a large extent, these proposals remain valid today. It was also pointed out that women have a unique and special role to play in resolving internal conflicts.

3. Little is recognized, but it has always been the soothing voice and touch of the mother that has always calmed down a crying infant. Perhaps this is a reason why women have always been the primordial symbol of peace and love. It is a truism that primarily women initially impart values in the home. As mothers, caregivers, teachers, spiritual mentors, wives, sisters, and daughters, women have an intrinsic and vital role to play in shaping destiny and culture.


4. This is especially true considering government, armed forces, religious institutions, and the media are, until now, dominated exclusively by men, much of women’s potential to date has still been repressed, squandered, or ignored. Succinctly put, we must be wasting close to 50% of our human capacity! Imagine the impact on society if this huge potential from women is unleashed and allowed to develop to its maximum. Accordingly our country is likely to recover from despair and depression in the over all sense- political, economic and socio- culture.

5. The current situation in Mindanao for example is the festering wound that the Philippines is showing to the rest of the world. It is a wound caused by fear, suspicion, injustice and inequality, and justifies human violence, by ignoring or denying the nobility of all people. Therefore, by their disunifying nature, they prevent the creation of a truly peaceful nation, and this leads to an important observation concerning the Philippines today: The Philippine climate is not in its optimum state for growth and development.

6. Even as women have been in the thick of peace initiatives, men have, for the most part, held the formal leadership and women have invariably been charged with the secondary secretariat functions. Often, however, women assume roles, which are basically extensions of or reinforcements of their traditional roles as housekeeper. Also, the lack of gender-perspective and gender-sensitivity in the peace process has resulted in the neglect of women, and children who are usually the hardest hit in armed conflicts.

7. How do we strengthen the role of women in building an environment of peace? First of all, we must understand that an environment of peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict. It is an environment where individuals, particularly women, and communities are able to fully develop their potentials, freely exercising their rights with due regard for the rights of others, and equally mindful of their responsibilities. It is a state where there is no graft and corruption in government; where the people are given their due; where there is growth, progress and sustainable development; where there is alleviation of the poor living conditions of the people; where justice, equity, freedom and truth reign. Women’s issues are central to all issues of humanity, democracy and economic independence.

8. For women, peace is the attainment of good inter-relationship within the community; it is being able to sleep securely throughout the night, and having mobility at all times. It is a condition where the government is able to deliver efficiently basic social services, and bring about their socio-economic upliftment and well being. Peace is therefore linked with women and development. An environment of peace can only occur within an environment of development.

9. How then can we achieve development that is sensitive to women’s issues? Interventions must bring gender concerns, including violence against women and women’s leadership in peace-building and development efforts into sharper focus. There is clearly a need to go beyond the limited substantive participation given to women in formal peace-related power structures, to explore, recognize, increase, and strengthen their role in the development processes of peace-building and peace-making. However, in the choice by women leadership, we should give the opportunities to those who are open, sensitive, and who will pursue the critical balance in forging a consensus.

10. Harnessing women’s participation in conflicts-settlement and peace-building means that the women’s movement should be made able to contribute to the negotiations, in the development of the approaches, processes, and strategies that allow settlements to be forged. It means strengthening and popularizing indigenous or community-based processes and systems such as bodong/peace pacts, intermediaries of go-betweens and other third parties, consultations, mediation, negotiation, conciliation- especially those managed by women to develop and strengthen conflict-resolution processes and mechanisms.

11. Furthermore, these efforts must be complemented by peace institutes, which must work to develop the understanding and application of gender and peace. They can start with the understanding of conflict as involving issues, processes, and personalities and as possibilities for win-win resolutions for change; the redefining of peace as encompassing the absence of war and all other elements of wholeness of life; the reconceptualization of security as based, not on a nation’s military capability, but on the sense of well-being of persons and peoples as generated by humane societal structure, including balance in the ecology.

Part 2 of this treatise by Ambassador Tirona will be published on Saturday July 5. The Manila Times publishes works by members of the Philippine Ambassadors’ Foundation Inc. (PAFI) under an agreement with the Foundation to supply articles about the foreign policy concerns of our country.

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