A peace center recently opened in Sulu in line with the government's program in Localizing the National Action (LNAP) on Women, Peace and Security in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In a press statement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) reported that the center is part of the local, regional, and national government's continuing joint efforts to reach out to marginalized and conflict-affected communities in the south.
The report said that OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles graced the inauguration of the Sulu Provincial Women and Children's Center on January 20, in a ceremony led by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, Jolo Mayor Hussein Amin, and Sulu Provincial Women's Council (SPWC) chairperson Nurunisah Tan.
In her message, Deles said that the National Action Plan (NAP) covers the Philippine government's implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1325 and 1820.
“UNSCR 1325, in particular, is a landmark resolution that acknowledges women's capacity to make decisions on women, peace and security issues,” she said.
“This Center is a way to help improve your lives here so that you'll have the strength and capacity to take part in the peace process, especially in relation to good governance and development,” Deles said during the program, addressing an audience consisting mostly of women, including women leaders in the province.
Deles also challenged the women not to be left behind when it comes to the peace process, saying that women shouldn't always be the victims.
“It is in your power to shape the minds of the future generation, and teach them to lead a life of honor and peace,” she said.
OPAPP and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) both co-chair the National Steering Committee on Women, Peace and Security that is mandated to oversee the implementation of the NAP.
The NAP aims to protect women's rights and prevent violations to it; empower women for their active and meaningful participation; promote and mainstream gender perspective in all aspects; and institutionalize a system to monitor, evaluate and report on its implementation.
As part of localizing the NAP, OPAPP, PCW and the ARMM Regional Steering Committee chaired by Vice Governor Hadja Bainon Karon, conducted last year a series of training workshops in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao to help representatives of provincial planning units, military and policy in planning gender-sensitive projects in their respective areas.
Sulu Provincial Women's Council (SPWC) chairperson Nurunisah Tan spoke of the experiences of women in Sulu. She shared that the many wars and clashes which swept the province left scars on the lives of many and created a generation of widows and orphans giving roots to social problems.
“This center will serve as a half-way house for those who felt transgressed, traumatized and violated, and will provide counseling and advice on the options open to them,” she said.
Haja Nurunihar Muhammad, commissioner for the Sulu sector of the Regional Council for Bangsamoro Women (RCBW), said the Center is a big statement for the women in Sulu. “This shows how women will be empowered here, and how the government will support our rights and freedom.”
The Sulu Provincial Women and Children's Center consists of a big, air-conditioned hall where women of Sulu can hold their meetings, and an office for a fiscal officer to attend to the needs and issues of women. One room is allotted for counselors and social workers and another for livelihood trainings.
The construction of the Center and its grounds was funded by the Sulu provincial government, and counterpart funding and other support services will be provided by the other government agencies, such as OPAPP, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the ARMM to cover other aspects of the Center's provision of services to women and children in Sulu.
During her visit in Sulu, Deles also led the inauguration of various projects in Peace and Development Communities (PDCs) under Pamana or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities), including the multipurpose covered court in the municipality of Maimbung, and a multipurpose community peace center in Indanan. She also visited the newly-rehabilitated classroom building in Patikul Elementary School in Kawmpang, Bangkal, where she interacted with grade-school students who welcomed her visit.
“Coming here in Sulu and personally seeing the progress we are making in this region is indeed a good way to start the year in the peace process,” Deles said.
Other completed projects in Sulu PDCs for 2012 included a public market in Bangas; day care centers in Tubig Sallang and Pisak-pisak; farm to market roads in Minapan, Timbangan, and Kamaunggi; and a coconut dryer in Alu Layag to sustain livelihood projects, among others.
“The peace process should not be done solely on the negotiating table, it should be felt by people on the ground,” said Deles.
“It's time for people to feel the peace dividends so that they will further support and push for peace,” Deles said. (OPAPP/FPG/RVC-PIA9, ZBST)