Women PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 June 2014 14:03

In our 17 year talks, we saw the gradual shift of government negotiators from people with military to those with civilian backgrounds, from purely male to more women. This shift cannot but happen without the real changes taking place in the governance institutions and in civil society organizations themselves.

In the Philippines, we broke the cycle of male-dominated peace negotiations as soon as more women found their way to the top. Because, women will know other women-experts whom they can trust to do a good job in a good way.  The female presidential adviser (who is also here) supported me. As we moved along, we brought in other women in the technical working groups on wealth-sharing and normalization, in particular. All of them were very qualified, all of them, waiting for this chance to make a big difference.

The talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under President Benigno Aquino III began with only one woman in both government and MILF panels – myself, a senior member next to the chair. Afterwards, the government added one more woman from the affected region (she is now the head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos).

When we agreed to bring in two consultants each to the talks, the MILF rectified the situation by bringing in two women – a lawyer and an educator. This way they did not have to reorganize their panel and offend anyone of them, who came from the different ethnic groups.

In other words, by creating more spaces, putting more seats inside the negotiating room, we were able to bring in more women. This is my first recommendation: put more seats around the table and inside the room, and by stressing the glaring absence of women, these seats would be given to them.

When our chair was appointed to the Supreme Court, I was expected to assume the post.

The President was initially concerned about having a woman chair the panel, not because he doubted women’s capability. After all, his mother was the former president that became the leading figure of the people power revolution that ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. He said clearly, I am not anti-women, but he was concerned about how ready the other side – an Islamist organization — was in having to negotiate with a woman-chairperson.

Indeed the MILF said, they were averse to a woman chair because, supposedly, in their culture, they don’t quarrel with a woman. To the MILF’s credit, they gave it a try, saying they will respect any negotiator regardless of gender and ethnicity.  In fact, they quarrelled with me too.

It was very important that we kept nudging – cautiously and graciously, ever so sensitive to the cultural milieu of the ethnic groups involved, until they got used to so many women inside the room – including those from our secretariat and that of Malaysia, the third-party facilitator. To keep on nudging, by the way, is my second recommendation.

The nudge came also from women’s groups seeing through the process such as the Women Engaged in Action 1325, the network of women and peace organizations in the country working on the implementation of the National Action Plan on the UN Security Council Resolution No.1325. They wrote both government and armed group peace panels and gave us a set of substantive gender agenda from protection to promotion and participation.

The international community engaged in the process also did their part not only with regard to Track 1 but also  when offering grants for trainings for MILF leaders and supporters, some, not all of them, required the inclusion of women. At other times, they funded women as observers in the process – these are the other seats that were opened up in the talks, in addition to the consultants that enabled more women participation in the negotiation track. This is the speech of Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer at the Experts Session of the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict