(March 15, 2021). In this era of development in the Bangsamoro, women rise and recall stories of sacrifices in times of war.
Ustadza Halima Hashim of Brgy. Inug- ug, Pikit, North Cotabato in a speech during a turnover ceremony of water system project, recalled that in times of battle “we could not meet and convene like this; we get water from marsh for daily use”.
She spoke about gratitude and dedication.
“We have to be grateful for all this development happening at present. We remember those who sacrificed, those who shed blood. They are not with us anymore, today”, the respected-woman told.
She added “now that we see this development, we have to work together and harder”.
Ustadza Halima is a sister of the late MILF founding chairman Salamat Hashim. She possesses a leadership charm, being the chair of MILF Social Welfare Committee (SWC) Liguasan Province. As a woman-leader in the woman-wing of the MILF, she has the respect, trust and support of fellow women members, other stakeholders and of the whole community.
(BRGY. NABALAWAG, BARIRA, MAGUINDANAO-CAMP ABUBAKAR). Hasana Balitok of Brgy. Nabalawag, Barira, Maguindanao- Camp Abubakar can still remember the past where she witnessed and experienced life in war and evacuation.
“Young I was, I saw the struggle of our people, our community during the time of war”, she said.
In teary eyes, she cannot help but share joy seeing the development coming in to their village.
“I’m really happy that at present, community needs are being responded like this road project”, Hasana stated.
She shared that Brgy. Nabalawag, was really a remote area. People would struggle to get living, away from civilization. There were no roads and bridges so the community would really endure the long walks and hard ways in order to access basic needs from nearest market.
“It was really difficult e.g., for sick people, because it takes really hard times to get to the adjacent health facility, and there was no means of transportation, only horses or by people carrying the sick with a blanket. Once, an animal died by crossing the river to transport local crops”, Hasana told.
Hasana is the vice president of Nabalawag Peace and Development Organization, a people’s organization mobilized through the Mindanao Trust Fund- Reconstruction and Development Project (MTF-RDP Phase II and III)- implemented in support to the Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Brgy. Nabalawag received road project from MTF-RDP that helped improved the access of the community to basic services such as health, education and livelihood.
For Hasana, it significant to involve women in development activities.
“In our case with our organization, I as vice president support our leader, who have less educational background. We do not think that way, instead, we help him in order for our organization to grow- because in unity we will progress together as one community”, Hasana added.
She said that NPDO is looking forward to establish own office to be able to function better as organization, working for the development of the whole community, which past is defined by war and isolation but with future inspired by common aspiration to become progressive.
(BRGY. SANDAB BUTIG, LANAO DEL SUR- CAMP BUSHRA). Naira Bimbad, 54, from Brgy. Sandab Butig, Lanao del Sur (CAMP BUSHRA) lost their three children during the time of all-out-war in 2000. It was in heavy heart that they (with her husband) went home after the war, without their kids. Naira and husband moved on and now have five children. Naira sees better future for her family, with the recent peace and development in the region.
She was among the farmer- participants to the recent training on peanut processing, as one sub-component of the MTF-RDP/3.
Naira is thankful of the training and is now confident to improve their farming methods and become more productive for her family.
(BRGY. KINEBEKA, DATU ODIN SINSUAT, MAGUINDANAO- CAMP BADRE). Cely Abdul, 60 of Brgy. Kinebeka, DOS, Maguindanao never taught that development would come to them in the mountains.
“We live in this remote area, almost difficult to reach. It was difficult for us women to go to the market. Public transport only comes once a week, so there was really a struggle to get basic commodities for living”, she recalled.
Cely is thankful for the development coming to their community and is now leading the other women in the village to become participative in development activities.
“I told them (women) to go out, learn time management and become productive. Find other means to help earn income, to have improvement for their families”, she said.
Cely is a Teduray, married to Muslim and is looking forward to strengthen and sustain their organization in Brgy. Kinebeka, especially now that the construction of agri-facility building is soon to be completed where women sector will have
(BRGY. SANIAG, AMPATUAN, MAGUINDANAO- CAMP OMAR). Janet Saligan, 54, a Teduray in Brgy. Saniag, Ampatuan, Maguindanao recalls that during armed conflict in the past years, they would spend nights by the mountains to watch over the process of charcoal making, where they earn income for their family of eight.
“It was difficult. I told my husband to better stay at night to ensure that we can produce charcoal because, sometimes, if something went wrong during the process then our hard work will be wasted. Charcoal making is our alternative source of income when farming failed due to pests attack”, Janet told.
She added that “it was really hard during those times, we have to climb the mountains, there was no good road like now, then peace and order was not stable. There was fear in us but we have to live so we went on”.
Janet joins the group of elderly sectors in learning to produce native products made of local fern abundant in their mountainous village. She intends to share the skills acquired from the training to help her community become productive.
(BRGY. TAMPARAN, MUNAI, LANAO DEL NORTE- CAMP BILAL). Parents in the barangay especially the mothers are happy about the farmers’ training center constructed in December 2020.
“We wanted to join community activities. But we cannot leave our children at home unsupervised by adults. This center is helpful because we have this formal venue for community gatherings where we can get involved while there is a space for our children within the building, so it is convenient for us”, mothers told.
The role of women in peace and development is irrefutable. The stories of Halima, Hasana, Naira, Cely and Janet speak of the vital part of the women in advancing the welfare of their communities. The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) recognizes this reality in relevance to inclusiveness as one value the agency upholds. In 2020, thirty percent of BDA’s staff were women. Same percentage is also true for one project in Upi, Maguindanao, where women were employed for the implementation of water system project responding to the needs of the community. Fifty percent of the total beneficiaries for the camps project are women.
In the Philippines, March 8, is declared as National Women’s Month (RA6949). Various laws related to women rights and protection includes Anti- Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, Anti-Rape Law of 1997, Anti-Trafficking in Person of 2003, Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) in 2004, among others.