Let peace reign in Mindanao: Support “Kefeduwan Libun,” Recognize Indigenous Women Arbiters
Ten (10) indigenous women leaders received recognition for their selfless contribution in making peace real in ARMM communities. On March 25, women leaders from the Teduray, Lambangian, and Dulangan Manobo tribes gathered at Sitio Magutay, Upi, Maguindanao, to culminate the celebration of the women’s month by giving recognition to the significant, but often invisible, roles of the “kefeduwan libun” or women arbiters.
The Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organization, Inc. (TLWOI) handed out certificates of recognition to ten women arbiters who have helped resolved cases of murder, theft, public scandal and petty quarrels, infidelity and other family troubles, slander, land grabbing, domestic abuse and rape.
The honored women arbiters were Floresita M. Pascual (Bgy. Kibucay, North Upi), Pacita M. Tanangkil (Bgy. Looy, South Upi), Elsie Samar Palao (Bgy. Romonggaob, South Upi), Rebecca L. Mokudef (Bgy. Looy, South Upi), Bibincia Kindan (Sitio Binaton, South Upi), Lilia Binas (Sitio Lower Binaton, South Upi), Celia J. Roman (Sitio Guila guila, South Upi), Rosalinda M. Mandi (Sitio Kewagib, South Upi), Rosa M. Momalaga (Sitio Duka Kiga, North Upi), Merilyn Timuay Rapsing (Bgy. Kuya, South Upi), and Alicia Angcol Magawa (Sitio Guila guila, South Upi).
With ages 53 to 77 years, these women arbiters not only settle conflicts but also perform roles as traditional birth attendants, officiators of rituals, farmers, community workers/organizers, wives and mothers (average number of children is seven). On top of their respective concerns, these women embrace the roles expected from a “kefeduwan libun,” even if it has meant exhausting personal and family resources – time, money, properties – in order to settle conflicts in the traditional peaceful way. Many of these women inherited the capacity and knowledge as arbiters from their parents and elders who have carried out the same responsibilities before them. They also recognized that their views have been sharpened by additional knowledge on women’s rights, especially on the local and sectoral application of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The indigenous women arbiters have also undergone orientation on relevant laws, i.e. MMA 241 (Protecting and Promoting IP Rights in ARMM) and MMA 280 (ARMM GAD Code), as well as the RA 9710 (Magna Carta of Women) and RA9262 (Anti-VAWC Act). They have discussed among themselves how to enrich the culture of peace in their communities by observing their tribal justice systems, in complementation with the abovementioned laws. Last December 16, 2011, TLWOI conducted a workshop that documented the profile of the libun kefeduwan and the nature of the cases that they were able to resolve.
Linking peace with governance, environment protection, and anti-poverty reduction
The one-day activity included a discussion on the Muslim Mindanao Act 241 or Act that Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in ARMM. This was enriched by a dialogue with the ARMM Deputy Governor for Indigenous Peoples Larry Tanzo. The women leaders emphasized that no policy reform will be successful without equal treatment between men and women in the community. Deputy Governor Tanzo responded that with the policy of an “open” government under the current administration, his office shall await the submission of the IP Women Agenda – including providing support to the women arbiters – for integration to their 15 month-action plan.
Meanwhile, the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) facilitated the discussion on the women’s month theme –Weathering Climate Change: Governance and Accountability, Everyone’s Responsbility, with emphasis on how men and women are affected differently by extreme weather conditions. The discussion also tackled environment issues, i.e. mining, logging, chemical-based farming practices, and plantations, which have worsened the impact of climate change and at the same time threatened the community’s right to self-determination. These types of investments have resulted to the tribe’s loss of access and control over ancestral lands, traditional sources of food, and means to provide for the welfare of their families.
Poverty and food insecurity are often the reasons behind the conflicts that the women arbiters help resolve. “Real issues need to be addressed if we want peace to reign in Mindanao; and as we lobby for support to the tribal women arbiters, we call for people-oriented development that do not worsen the roots of conflict,” noted Froilyn Tenorio-Mendoza, TLWOI coordinator and member of the IP Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).
TLWOI Vice Chairperson Elsie Mokudef gave an update on the on-going local poverty reduction action planning, wherein the municipalities of South Upi and North Upi have been identified as priority areas; Mokudef cautioned that for this action plan to work, “good governance and full respect for the ancestral lands” need to be in place. To set their own model for governance, respect for the land, and sustainable development, the TWLOI maintains two sites of 3-hectare demo farms (for production of organic rice, livestock and permanent crops) to serve as learning centers for women’s indigenous knowledge and practices on food security and environment protection. #
Article contributed by Daryl Leyesa, PKKK Secretary General
Contact person: Froilyn Tenorio-Mendoza, TLWOI 0919-7484018
Daryl Leyesa po, Kababaihan Sa Kanayunan at TLWOI