On 27 of March 2014, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Women Peace Mediators were among the driving
forces of this successful peace process. Several of them belong to the 1000 PeaceWomen who have been nominated for the Peace Nobel Prize in 2005. Last April 8, a Women’s Forum was held in Quezon City, Philippines in order to visualize and celebrate the difference women made at the peace table.
“Peace doesn’t recognize religion, culture. It is a human’s basic need,” said Undersecretary Yasmin Busrao Lao. The inclusion of women in Track 1 (government level) paved the way for changes in the dynamics of the peace process. It shook off the formality of the process by making it more personal while concentrating on the significant and “hardcore” issues that needed to be agreed and settled.
Undersecretary Lao also shared that at one point, Peace Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer used “informal ways“ in sending messages to her such as “kicking her foot“’ under the table. Director Iona Gracia Jalijali also mentioned that at first the men were not comfortable in hugging members of the panel yet when the final annex was signed they were already comfortable in hugging each other in expressing their happiness.
“(This process proved that) Women Mediators would be able to rely on the sisterhood of each other,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles said during the Women’s Forum.
The participation of women, especially having a woman Peace Panel Chair, also created a paradigm shift by eliminating bias the men had against the women. Prof. Coronel-Ferrer mentioned there was discrimination in the beginning especially during the discussion of hard issues like power sharing.
When asked what kept them going, Undersecretary Zenonida Brosas said“we don’t want to go home as a failure.”
Author: Jennifer Santos, alumna of the PWAG/Sangat Peace Mediators Course in Nepal, October 2013.