by: Kaye Michelle Villaflor
Gender Advocate and Woman Peacekeeper
As a gender advocate, I was sent by Linda Villaflor, a long-time partner of the Center for Peace Education (CPE) to join the WePeace Training Team. Though reluctant, I obliged. Going through the first few days of the training, there were certain realizations that reaffirmed my stand on this advocacy.
Peacekeeping, most of the time, is a responsibility given to men. So how do women become peacekeepers? In my observation, women are already part of the barangay police force in some areas. But in others, they are not. This made me think — to have a peaceful community, everyone must be involved and be gender sensitive. Why? Because the essence of gender sensitivity is not about who has power or authority. It refers to acknowledging the presence of the other, and understanding and respecting their choices and situations. When people learn to respect others, and do not let authority, power or entitlement oppress others, a peaceful life is realized. Men, women, and everyone in the broad gender spectrum must realize this.
Now, the next question: where do I go with this realization in mind? In my case, I brought it home. With CPE, the WePeace partners with support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, brought the women peacekeeping training in Infanta, Quezon last 30-31 May 2019.
Infanta faces a major peace and security issue – the proposed Kaliwa Dam Project. Another troubling issue highlighted in the training was the prevalence of domestic violence.
With more than 20 women participating from three parishes, most have agreed that domestic violence is one important issue that needs attention and action. Emerging from the training, and working closely with the local parish priest and CPE, efforts to address gender-based issues is where Infanta’s WePeace story begins.
Up and Running: Peacekeeping through Different Approaches
There were three key approaches identified to get WePeace Quezon running: First, providing a Women, Peace and Security (WPS) seminar for the barangay officials of Barangay Bantilan, where a current a barangay official was a recipient of the WePeace training. Second, providing gender sensitivity training to women’s desks, and the Family and Life Ministry of the parish; and lastly, continuously raising awareness on the implications of the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.
One: Spreading Peace – One Barangay at a Time
Anita Angco, a servant of the Infanta Parish, barangay official, and woman peacekeeper shares some her experience of being part of WePeace:
On the training experience:
“It (the training) was a unique experience – unique in a sense that it was my first unforgettable experience to undergo actual mediation process which I badly needed as a barangay official. I truly enjoyed and benefited a lot from it.”
On monitoring and documentation:
“The WPS training has capacitated greatly as far as the mediation process is concerned. Every time the Barangay Chairperson is on official travel and certain issues in the barangay arise, he would appoint me to take charge of the issues. Because of the WPS training, I was able to mediate with confidence, and was able to help the parties resolve cases successfully. As to documentation, such cases follow a certain process of documentation prescribed by the local government and all reports and documents are filed in the office of the barangay.”
On other involvements:
“As the chair for the Education Committee for our barangay council, I feel the need to echo the same training to more women leaders that they too will be capacitated when our term ends. Thus, upon discussion with Linda Villaflor and Kaye Villaflor, we agreed to hold the same WePeace training for barangay officials. True enough, the officials were very grateful for the seminar.”
This echoing was conducted last 29 and 30 July to barangay officials of Poblacion Bantilan, Infanta, Quezon. The women peacekeepers from the May training acted as the secretariat, and even assisted in conducting the mediation workshop.
Gains from WePeace
“In particular, the session on conflict management has helped me a lot not only as a barangay official but in my personal life as well. Believing in walking the talk, I have learned to control my emotions and think first before acting, especially during difficult situations. The mediation topic has capacitated me as a barangay official. […]Thanks to the skills gained from the training, the cases I handled since were resolved.”
Looking ahead, Anita shares that should there be a second phase to WePeace, discussions on the recovery process of women victims of SGV should be taken into consideration. Other possible topics could also be how to help start the healing process, and create a support group.
Two: Building Peace in the Home, Building Peace in the Community
Last 19 August 2019, a trainer’s training was conducted to capacitate local women partners on different women and gender-based issues, and how peacebuilding and peacekeeping can be practiced. This trainer’s training is part of the goal to conduct training for all members of the women’s desk and the Family and Life Ministry of the parish.
Despite a few setbacks in terms of attendance from the previous training sessions, a Gender Sensitivity Training last 26 October 2019 brought together 9 married couples from selected members of the family and life ministry. This training received so much positive feedback, with couples sharing how it has helped them understand their partner better, and encouraged them to build a more peaceful community using their knowledge on gender sensitivity.
Linda Villaflor, and I lead the training with Merian Aldea, another participant from the WePeace training in May. We continue our efforts to extend our outreach to members even beyond the parish, to particularly barangays.
Three: Protecting Lives, Protecting Peace
With the continued effort of the national government to construct the controversial Kaliwa Dam as a short-term solution for the water shortage / crisis in the National Capital Region, WePeace Infanta joins local residents in its advocacy to protect human life, and to educate on the implications of this project. The proposed area of construction, from the point of view of those who are directly affected, threatens residents of Infanta, as well as indigenous peoples, who live downstream the Agos River. As women peacekeepers, the group continues to hold dialogues and engage those on the ground.
Last 7 July 2019 the Alliance of Oppositions of the Kaliwa Dam launched the nationwide signature campaign addressed to the President, appealing to halt the construction.
As the dam’s construction progresses, another movement was organized by the local alliance of oppositions and the Local Government of Infanta – the Public Hearing for the Passage of the Legislative Resolution to oppose its construction. WePeace Infanta participated in this hearing, and even had a short moment with one of the key environmental experts discussing a study on the effects of the dam’s construction.
Advocating for Life, Advocating for Peace
Though WePeace’s first year is almost at its end, the women peacekeepers continue their involvement in awareness-raising on the Kaliwa Dam especially about its impact on the environment; vulnerability to natural hazards; and possible eruption of resource conflicts. We continue to serve our parish with the skills and knowledge we have learned from the training. We continue to use our voices and encourage the conversation about domestic violence.
As long as our activities remain nonviolent and rooted for the good, we continue to resist, to engage, and to work relentlessly for our generation, and the next.
And as for me, the advocacy of gender equality and peace continues on as I live my everyday life.