Wanted: more women in governance

Participants to the "Linking and Learning, an international women leaders conference on conflict transformation and good governance" cheered and applauded, affirming a woman's power.

But are women assuming greater role in governance and conflict resolution than before?

Apparently not, said organizers of the conference now being held at Eden Nature Park here Nov. 23-27 where 15 international delegates and 30 from the Philippines are gathered.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, deputy executive director of event lead organizer Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), said the conference was organized to check on what could be done to operationalize the United Nations' Security Council Resolution 1325 that seeks to secure proportionate role of women in peace and security processes.

"More than 10 years after it was passed, we hardly hear United Nations agencies promote that,” she lamented. “How much more the government, the military and the other parties to the conflict?" Arnado briefed reporters.

She said strategies and program of actions on how women could assume greater role in conflict transformation and good governance are among the objectives of the conference.

Arnado stressed that based on the UN resolution, women must compose at least 35 percent in the peace panels, in the monitoring teams and in the ceasefire committees.

She said they are gathering information to review what could be done to push the realization of the international resolution and draft a platform of action, to link efforts and to have a regional expression.

Arnado said the participants would also share and narrate their experiences, as an alternative to the usually formal lecture set up of conferences.

"That's one thing why we are here. To be inspired by one another," Arnado said after Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca gave one of the conference's two keynote speeches.

Padaca narrated her experience going against and defeating Isabela's political dynasty.

She said she was surprised at the power of transformational leadership when people saw her, a polio survivor, leading.

“Some of the men approached me and told me, ‘Grace, thank you for taking the courage to do what we, who are very able, could have done’,” Padaca said as she recounted to reporters the threats of going against her province's powerful political dynasty.

Padaca urged participants to continue in their work as many of them are in the advocacy work for long years and had been through even more difficult and challenging trials.

Lawyer Evalyn Ursua, of the Women's Legal Bureau, was among three panelists in the presentation on “What we should stop doing. What we should do differently."

Ursua was the lead counsel who prosecuted American servicemen accused of raping at Subic a Filipina from Zamboanga City.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, a former Davao City councilor and English professor, was supposed to be in the conference, too. But she backed off as she is still recuperating from wounds she sustained in the Nov. 13 bomb attack at the House of Representatives.

Foreign delegates include those coming from Malaysia, Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Palestine, Nigeria, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, West Papua, Aceh, Timor Leste and Myanmar.

Prior to the conference’s formal opening, the delegates were divided to three groups for exposure trips to Pantukan in Compostela Valley, Sungko in Lantapan, Bukidnon and Pikit in North Cotabato.

The conference, funded by NOVIB, also covers story telling of women's contributions to conflict transformation and governance from Thailand, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Conversations with indigenous women from Cordillera and Mindanao would also feature Ubo Manobo tribal chieftain Bae Era Espana, Lorie Viktor of the Ecumenical Commission on Indigenous People and Fatmawati Salapuddin of Lupah ug Bangsamoro Women Association.

Presentations on the options and realities on the struggles for right to determination in Burma, Mindanao, South Thailand, Aceh (Indonesia) and Sri Lanka would also be held. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)