QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 17 October) — Salam! I hope all of you are coping well with COVID-19. Stay strong and healthy because Mindanao hasn’t seen the worst yet. Tokyo’s Nikkei Asia (a financial magazine) recently came out with its latest COVID-19 Recovery Index. The Philippines is No. 121 out of 121 countries. Can the government do a better job to counter this pandemic? Thus far, it seems to have dealt fairly well with Metro Manila – vaccinations, masking mandates, strategies to keep people safe in public spaces, partnerships with the private sector, lockdowns. How about outside Metro Manila?
I have been “imprisoned” at home since March 2020. Meetings, conferences and training workshops have all been virtual. Unable to travel, a friend suggested that I should start a podcast. Researching about podcasts, I found out that it is a fast-growing communications vehicle. Podcasting gives a voice to the voiceless while amplifying important conversations on issues that need to be addressed such as women in peace. Moreover, using audio is a great way to communicate complex ideas. Better still, listeners can tune in anytime they have time – while having coffee, eating durian or marang, travelling, jogging, cooking, etc.
Thus, She Talks Peace podcast was born.
She Talks Peace is a podcast that highlights the role of women peacebuilders around the world in bringing lasting peace and security to their communities. Each podcast episode aims to provide informative and engaging platform for the public to know the stories of women peacebuilders – from the Philippines to Yemen, from Indonesia to Afghanistan, from Malaysia to Nigeria; their dreams and their hopes for a world without violence and a world where every woman and girl can be whoever she wants to be.
I moderate the podcast together with Dina Zaman, a Malaysian journalist and co-founder of IMAN Research. Our launch was on August 8, the 54th Anniversary of ASEAN. Our guests were former Foreign Secretary Delia Albert and Indonesian Ambassador Artauli Tobing, two women who broke thru the glass ceiling of diplomacy and strong advocates of women empowerment. Our conversation was not just enlightening, it was peppered with interesting personal anecdotes about the founding fathers of ASEAN. An episode on the realities of working in Afghanistan was particularly timely, as we talked with Dr. Evangeline Cua who is with Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz City, Afghanistan. Why would a Filipina doctor from Samar stay in Afghanistan when Kabul had fallen, you might ask. For the answer, you can listen to Dr. Cua. We have released 12 episodes, hosted by Podcast Network Asia and available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
In our latest episode, we had a fascinating but sobering discussion on modern day slavery with Susan Ople, a well-known champion of migrant workers, and Adrian Pereira, a Malaysian advocate against trafficking.
In Mindanao, human traffickers have a field day recruiting from our conflict-affected, poor community and smuggle the recruits through the Zamboanga-Tawi-tawi route to Malaysia and other places. More and more women are being recruited. Both Susan and Adrian are lobbying for government to do more. I wonder if the Bangsamoro Autonmous Region in Muslim Mindanao has focused attention on this pernicious problem.
Do listen to the fascinating conversations with these fearless advocates, starting with Delia Albert and Artauli Tobing in Episode 1.
Meanwhile, let us bask in the international accolade heaped on Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize Awardee for 2021, sharing this coveted award with Russian Journalist Dmitry Muratov. We at the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) congratulate her and Mr. Muratov, who were chosen “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Maria Ressa has been a valuable resource of PCID in our conferences on a just peace and the prevention of violent extremism, reliant on the strengthening of resilience and democracy at the community level, thru human rights-based interventions.
As Muslims in the Philippines face a global resurgence of extreme fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, effectively propagated thru social media by ISIS and its affiliated terrorist organizations, her fact-based analysis on how social media is being used to spread fake news and manipulate public discourse is valuable to our efforts to counter online radicalization of Muslims, particularly the young.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Amina Rasul is the President of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, an advocate for Mindanao and the Bangsamoro, peace, human rights and democracy)