Women have gained a stronger role in the peace process with the help of advocacy groups, according to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles.
During a dialogue with delegates from various local and international non-government organizations held at the OPAPP headquarters in Pasig City, Deles stressed the importance of having a peace constituency to strengthen women's participation in the peace process.
"If you don't have a peace constituency, women won't have a voice," Deles said, adding that this is something that she learned in her journey as a woman peacemaker.
She recounted her own experiences as a civil society peace advocate in the 80's where she co-founded Coalition for Peace, an assembly of citizens calling on the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) to stop the war and sit on the negotiating table.
"We realized that we need to build constituency on the ground," Deles said, adding that this has helped other women find their voices in the peace process.
The peace process adviser affirmed how important women's role is in the peace negotiations.
"More people understand now that we need women. Without women, violence would have become communal a long time ago," she said.
Deles emphasized that women's participation in the current administration is "not just token representation on the table," but is something that has been "shaping the discourse" of the talks.
She said that there are three women members in the government negotiating panels.
Jurgette Honculada, a women and labor rights advocate, and Maria Lourdes Tison, a peace advocate from the private sector, sit in the panel for peace talks with the NDF. Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, on the other hand, is part of the panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"Likewise, the panel secretariats are both headed by women," Deles said.
Beena Sebastian, a foreign delegate from the Cultural Academy for Peace based in India, admired the extent of Filipino women's involvement in the peace process after learning from Deles that aside from women participating in the negotiating table, there have been countless others involved in peacemaking work on the community level.