COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 29 January) — Women groups across the seven-province, three-city Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are asking Members of Parliament (MPs) to use the languages in the region through translation of the draft legislative measures and during public consultations.
These were some recommendations aired by women’s groups during a series of consultations conducted by the regional government.
“We have to admit there exists a communication gap,” said Faija Taalil, commissioner of the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC) in Basilan.
“Sad to say many women could not understand English, the language used during consultations, and because of that, they are not … interested,” Taalil said.
Ranisa Salahuddin, BWC commissioner in Tawi-Tawi, shared Taalil’s observations.
“Legislators use technical terms and ordinary folks in the countryside could not understand,” she said, adding that if these are translated to the languages in the region, “people will surely show interest and will actively participate in moral governance.” She said
MP and Deputy Speaker Omar Yasser Sema noted that the draft legislations are in English and this has been the normal procedure from national level to the regional and local legislative bodies.
“This is the norm and typical in the country’s legislative process so we also seek the help of local government executives in the smallest local government units to help in bridging the gap,” he said.
Sema said local chief executives have lawyer-advisers who can review the materials provided them before the public consultations.
Knowing fully well how important communication is legislation, the Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress, Inc. (MOSEP) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) worked together with the BWC.
MOSEP and TAF noted that among the challenges in engaging the public on how the Bangsamoro Parliament operates is the absence of strategic communication and advocacy mechanism for public information on the legislative agenda, issues on where and how to access information and a feedback mechanism for laws and resolutions enacted, the status of codes and bills lodged, and other information about the Parliament that should have been made accessible through the different online platforms – social media accounts, websites and radio programs.
The two organizations partnered to help the BWC come up with a communication plan so women in remote communities will easily understand and get involved in legislation of important laws. It is also to ensure that women are not excluded and their voices are heard.
They organized community conversations and workshops on gender rights awareness and other unattended issues confronting the women sector.
“With the support from TAF, the main objective is to support the BWC communication plan that contains women’s rights, their political aspirations and participation, how BARMM operates and how they can support peace and development programs. They can also use this in their advocacy at the grassroots level,” Mariam Ali, MOSEP executive director, said.
Rahima Silongan, BWC executive assistant, said included in the commission’s programs are community gender awareness, giving Bangsamoro women a platform where they can express their views and take on issues that will, in the end, affect them.
“Letting them know their roles … is empowering them and giving them roles to play in achieving genuine peace and development in their communities,” she said.
Hadja Samaona Una of BWC-Lanao del Sur, said this program “gives awareness to our people in the grassroots level especially the former wives and family of former combatants and its communities.”
“This is inclusive, we let peoples organizations participate, the disabled sectors, and many more. It is the mandate of the Bangsamoro women to mainstream this sector, the former combatants and their families are included here, including the Bangsamoro Women Auxiliary Brigade (BWAB).
Silongan said “basically we are empowering them to participate actively in crafting policies, giving them workshops as to their roles, their issues and how they want to address these in the legislative processes.”
“We believe in the power of women, they have major roles to play, they not just mothers taking care of their babies but they are major players in policy making and legislation and BWC knows it fully well,” she added. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)